Naples ordinances bring out citizens’ passion, ire

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Whenever a municipality makes a change to its existing ordinances or official policies, there is a long process involved.

There are boards and committees that discuss, consider and review drafts, which are scrutinized by the town attorney as the language takes shape. Along the way, there are advertised public hearings, during which time public comment is welcome.

Then, the proposed amendments must meet the approval of a majority of the residents in a town meeting forum.

That is the quick tour of the legally-required journey of any amendment to a town’s set of ordinances.

On Monday night, citizens at Naples Town Meeting had the power to pass or to pass over five ordinance-related Warrant Articles.

All of those ordinances, with the exception of light manufacturing, drew much public comment and showed diverse attitudes and a range of emotions about town matters.

Definitely, the most detailed was a new Naples Fire and Rescue ordinance, which passed by a roughly two-thirds vote.

The reasoning behind what seemed to be an abrupt change for many people — to bring the fire department into legal compliance by declaring it a municipal entity.

The Naples Fire Association president spent some time at the microphone, holding a notebook with a checklist of questions, particularly about fire association fundraising and accounting for fire association funds. Like many, he wanted to know the impact of adopting the ordinance.

At some point, the public comments were made in rapid-fire sequence. Some residents favored status quo for the fire and rescue department because that is what has worked for a town the size of Naples. Other people simply wanted to size up the implications.

Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak fielded some of the inquiries.

“This ordinance firmly puts the fire association as a separate entity,” Paraschak said.

“This is to protect the town,” he said.

Naples Fire Chief Chris Pond was asked to comment.

“It’s a paperwork issue to bring us in line with state law,” he said.

“I am in favor of the ordinance. It will make us stronger. We will still fundraise. We are still going to put fires out,” Pond said.

Things got heated in the room over Warrant Article 48. It was one of two land-use ordinances that had been revised at the request of the Naples Board of Selectmen.

For the second year in a row, an ordinance that would define dwelling units and cooking and/or eating facilities, was debated and voted down.

A group of residents were angry over the possible implication of the alterations to the ordinance definitions.

Sue Poulin, who until Jan. 1 operated Village Hairdresser from her home, had been in violation of the law. Not for the at-home business, but because her single-family residence had more than one dwelling unit.

Poulin was concerned for citizens on a fixed income who cannot pay their mortgage and property tax without subleasing “mother-in-law” apartments or rooms in their home.

“We need to protect the residents of this town. I understand the need to control growth. For taxpayers, we are the town. New laws should only apply to new construction,” she said.

Rather than disassembling the extra dwelling units, Poulin purchased “three acres of swamp land.”

“This is a classic example of government overreaching,” Poulin later said.

Another resident, Jim Grattelo, expressed a concern in the shift of attitude regarding the rights of private property owners.

“The character of this town is changing. In the past 22 years, this town has been pro-property rights,” he said.

“I know there is a new sheriff in town,” he said, referring to the code enforcement officer.

“The people in this town have to have a say in this community. Bob (Neault) is right. This should be handled by the community, by a committee, not by the person who enforces” the ordinances, Grattelo said.

“I recommend this item being tabled and voted down. It needs to be vetted out,” he said.

During the Town Meeting, Naples Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Renee Carter did not speak to address the purpose of the proposed ordinance definitions during the Town Meeting.

The selectmen wanted to make the definition of a residential dwelling “crystal clear,” she said.

“People near the water, or not near the water, are building apartments in the home and renting them out,” she said.

This is permissible by law if there is enough land to do it.

“The state law says next to water you need 200 feet of water frontage, and 60,000 square feet per dwelling unit,” Carter said.

“When you make a bunkhouse you have cut that in half. You have taken away what is allowed, making smaller lots illegally,” she said.

“The town is still going to look at these dwelling units as houses and take action against it,” Carter said.

Another item, Warrant Article 47, governs for-profit campgrounds as well as temporary camps on private land.

The town manager and town attorney explained the intent of this ordinance before it was approved by a vote.

“This is intended for properties where someone moves in with a camper or a couple of campers, and sets up residency and lives there for 10 to 11 months out of year without a septic system,” Paraschak said.

He said it would forbid “squatter” type living.

Town Attorney Sally Duggett, Esq., said the definition of campground is slightly amended.

No campground is allowed in the Village zone district and/or critical zone areas such as wetlands, the Shoreland Zone or wildlife preserves, she said.

“This does not affect lawfully-existing campgrounds,” Duggett said.

 

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