Public hearing on Casco business ordinance change

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Tell me more. Tell me more.

Residents wanted to hear more information about the implications and the details of a proposed ordinance change that would allow properties zoned for business to operate on smaller lots.

Resident Nadia Hermos wanted to know if her property was within the boundaries of Casco’s Village District.

Trevor Tidd, who lives in the Village District, heard about the public hearing on the day it was happening.

He wanted more time to digest the proposed amendments, and learn how those might affect his property.

People will have to do their research before Casco Town Meeting in early June.

By a slim majority of 3-2, the Casco Board of Selectmen voted to put the proposed ordinance change on a warrant at Town Meeting. Chairman Mary-Vienessa Fernandes and Selectman Grant Plummer opposed the motion.

If passed at Town Meeting on June 11, the proposed amendment would allow businesses to operate with reduced setbacks and smaller parking lots.

The types of businesses would still be dictated by the current zoning laws. Bigger projects would still go before the Planning Board with a site plan review.

The proposed change was a suggestion of Selectman Ray Grant as a way of making it easier for residents to start a home business, or for companies to buy real estate in the Village and start a new business.

At the time, Grant had said that those parts of the ordinance were restrictive.

The board decided that rather than creating a committee to study the ordinance, it would be quicker to have Town Planner Jim Seymour write up an amendment addressing setbacks and parking for small businesses.

Resident Pat Troy was not pleased with that line of thinking. She said that Seymour is an employee of the town who does what he is told, not a stakeholder — someone who cared about the future of the Village district.

“The ordinance change would not improve the business climate of Casco.

(We should investigate) before jumping into a hasty ordinance zoning change,” Troy said.

“All five (Village) districts impact water quality. What happens in the districts runs into the water. The most important thing is that each building needs space for a well and septic system,” she said.

Resident Rick Thorpe opposed the proposal.

“I don’t see any business-friendly changes in this ordinance that aren’t already here now. This is rushed,” Thorpe said.

Other residents echoed that sentiment.

“I didn’t have a clue that this was on the agenda until today,” Trevor Tidd said.

“If this is going to Town Meeting, and to be voted in, it would affect too many people who aren’t aware. (This proposal could) get slid through really quickly,” Tidd said.

Selectman Tracy Kimball said the board had done things properly regarding the amendments.

“We haven’t circumvented any protocol.

These changes — they don’t seem monumental. I feel like we have done everything we are supposed to do. We advertised the hearing. We had a public hearing,” Kimball said.

However, some people wanted more time and more residents on board with drafting any proposed amendments.

Troy advocated the formation of a committee and several more months before settling on amendments to the current zoning ordinance.

“Yes, it does feel like it is being pushed through, rushed through. In the past, the usual procedure is for any proposed zoning change to be studied by the planning board, the zoning board and the people of the town,” Troy said.

To view the public hearing in its entirety, go to Lake Region Television website, www.lakeregiontv.org or access the recent broadcast from the Town of Casco webpage, http://cascomaine.org/

 

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