Harrison new shoreland rules go online before hearing

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

HARRISON — The proposed changes to the Shoreland Zone Ordinance (SZO) are now available on the Town of Harrison’s website.

Harrison residents will be able to review the amended ordinance prior to its second public hearing on Thursday, April 27. The upcoming public hearing will start at 7 p.m. at the Harrison Town Hall.

After the public hearing, the proposed amendments to the ordinance will likely appear as a warrant article during Town Meeting. The other possible option is that the SZO amendments will be a decision for local voters during the November election.

The State of Maine has required that all towns review a portion of the SZO and decide whether to keep two methods of calculating square footage of construction on shoreland zone property or to decide on one method. The idea is to make the calculations easier for the homeowner desiring to expand their dwelling. Going with one, more user-friendly calculation is one way to go. So, some towns are eliminating one of the two calculations. No matter what, the ordinance takes into account the structure’s distance from the water.

“It it’eir vote oneting, t table the SZO until the second public hearing on April 27. tructure' gment that resulted in civil penattis state mandated. The state is trying to better define the issues that make it complex. Towns everywhere are going to change it sooner or later,” Harrison Town Manager George “Bud” Finch said, adding with Town Meeting slated for June it seemed natural for town officials in Harrison to do it now.

“This is not something that will make a great difference to the majority of people, but the town has to go through the whole process,” he said. “It is far more complex to go through the process than the change is worth. The process is the same as writing a whole new” ordinance.

“People on the waterfront get nervous when there is a change to SZO. They feel there are too many regulations already,” Finch said. “But, it isn’t a real meat and potatoes issue. The amounts of differences are very minute one way or the other.”

Last Thursday, the first public hearing for the revised SZO was held by the Harrison Board of Selectmen.

The major change is in the way people can calculate expanding their homes, particularly on a nonconforming lot.

“The (shoreland zoning) ordinance used to have a calculation that included volume,” according to Harrison Town Clerk Melissa St. John. “What is being proposed is to go by the footprint instead with a maximum limit, or square-footage cap, based on distance from the water,” she said.

This is something that other towns have has done with their SZO, as was pointed out by Harrison Selectman Richard St. John, who also serves as code enforcement officer in Otisfield.

“The footprint is the size of the building, the shadow when the sun is shining at noontime,” St. John said, adding this applies to homes, decks, patios. “Footprinting makes a much more sizable summer home than the percentage calculations.”

“We should get rid of all the volume calculations. Quite frankly, I am not sure how people could calculate it without knowing calculus,” St. John said.

According to Harrison Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) John Wentworth, the changes include three typos, adding one definition and relying on one way of calculating expansion.

“The highlight of this is whether or not the town switches to the new way to calculate expansion,” he said. “Previously, it was based on volume.”

Some towns permit only one option; other towns allow both, he said. “Either one is based on the distance of the structure from lake,” river or wetlands, Wentworth said.

Footprinting allows homeowners to take into account the size of accessory buildings such as a shed or a garage when figuring out how many square-feet of expansion is permissible, depending on the distance from the water, Wentworth said.

The ordinance changes come into play on very small lots, too, he said.

“There is a cap (on the square footage.) You can only do so much expansion,” he said.

“You still have to do the survey, lot plan, show the building and do the calculations. The owner has 90 days to record that plan at the Registry of Deeds. It has to be recorded. That is not negotiable,” Wentworth said.

After last Thursday’s meeting, the town clerk cleaned up the shoreland zoning ordinance and put the new ordinance on the town website by the next day.

“There were a couple more spelling errors. If you look hard you will find them, but they don’t change the content,” Melissa St. John said.

During that meeting, the selectmen made a motion to table their vote on the SZO until the second public hearing on April 27.

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