Ordinance input gets testy

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — It’s good that a pop quiz did not follow the discussion.

An educational meeting was held on Tuesday to review four ordinance amendments that were tabled during Casco’s Town Meeting in June.

But, the discussion never got to the point where all four ordinance changes were outlined or summarized.

First, the gathering gave residents the opportunity to vent about the chain store, General Dollar. About a month ago, a sign appeared advertising a future General Dollar store coming to the Village district of Casco. The sign was located in the right-of-way of the grassy field between Crossroads Discount Store and the Casco Fire Station lot.

“We are here because of (General Dollar),” resident Pat Maines said.

Casco Town Planner Jim Seymour said General Dollar did not have a pending plan with the town.

“We don’t even have an application. I have had no discussion with (General Dollar,)” Seymour said.

“That is not the impetus for why we are here,” he said.

“Right now, we are looking strictly at definitions in the ordinance,” he added.

The first ordinance change was a set of definitions that, for the most part, are already in the town’s ordinances. The definitions have been streamlined into one section.

The definitions were consolidated so they would be easier to reference, Seymour said.

“The language wasn’t changed. It was transformed so it’s easier to follow — just for the commercial and Village districts,” Seymour said.

Also, Tuesday night’s informational meeting pointed to the pressing need for an updated Comprehensive Plan, which was last completed in 2003. According to Maine State law, towns need to complete a new comp plan once every 10 years.

Along that same vein, the need for design standards, or design guidelines, came up. Those would allow the town to dictate how any new commercial buildings looked and how they blended into the appearance, or character, of the town.

The task of creating a new comprehensive plan and putting together a set of design guidelines is a time-consuming one, according to Seymour and others who spoke.

“The discussion we would like to take from this is: We need to look at design guidelines for the Village District,” Seymour said.

Putting design guidelines in writing would allow residents to dictate how future buildings would look. If passed, design standards would permit the town to require new business buildings to have the aesthetics that complement existing structures, he said.

“We cannot segregate one user out. We cannot go against one potential user,” Seymour said.

More than 30 people attended the meeting, along with the five members of the Casco Planning Board, Casco Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Don Murphy and Seymour, who works as a civil engineer for Sebago Technics and is hired part-time as Casco’s town planner.

Audience members provided ideas to help with the next informational meeting, which is scheduled for July 28. Some of those suggestions included using visual aids such as a flipchart or a Powerpoint slide presentation so that everyone could see the ordinance changes being discussed rather than flipping through pages.

Planning Board Chairman Lynne Potter was among those who thanked the audience for their participation.

“Town involvement is very, very important. Your voice is very important; and, if you don’t exert it,” those opinions will not be known, she said, adding that residents should stay involved with the proposed ordinance amendments process as well as the updated comprehensive plan and evolution of design guidelines.

“It started with town meeting. And, you are here tonight. Don’t let it stop,” Potter said.

Earlier in the meeting, an abutter to the property where the Dollar General sign appeared, spoke. Tammy Theriault said she was very concerned about a national chain store being constructed on the lot next to hers. Also, she accused town officials of trying to slide the ordinance changes by the public in an effort to open the doors for Dollar General.

Seymour shook his head and said that was simply not the case.

Later, Theriault warmed up to the concept of design guidelines.

“If they are going to build something across from my house, make it look good,” she said.

Seymour responded, “That is what design guidelines are for: Not only the size, but how buildings look, how they fit into the Village.”

Maines said she took offense not only to the idea of an oversized box store in plain view of the Village, but what would happen if the business went under in years to come.

“If someone wants to come in and build an enormous store and it goes out of business, then you have an eyesore, an empty eyesore, in the middle of your town,” Maines said.

“With performance standards and with a maximum size, it would help to prevent a store from coming in that cannot be sustained in Casco’s economic environment,” she said.

Another audience member spoke in favor of allowing businesses to locate in Casco.

“We only need to provide guidelines that address noise levels, pollution, clutter, damage to the environment. Let businesses come in and make an attempt to serve the residents of Casco,” he said.

“We don’t have to be so restrictive,” he said.

To see the informational meeting on proposed amendments to the Town of Casco ordinances, go to the Lake Region Television (LRTV) website, or go to cascomaine.org and scroll to the bottom of the page to view recorded meetings.

 

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