Requested zoning change on Route 302 — is it spot zoning?

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

NAPLES — Should a business owner along Route 302 here be allowed to open a bicycle shop in a building that has been used commercially in the past?

Townspeople will be asked to make that decision, at a special town meeting here next month (April 18) — whether or not they want to change the designation of a property along Route 302 from “rural” to “commercial.”

Scott Kilton wants to operate his business, called Singletrack Cycle Shop, in the same building on Route 302 where the former Sunny Window Café was located.

Kilton’s father, Dave Kilton, spoke on his son’s behalf, at last week’s public hearing held specifically to hear comments from the public on the proposed zoning change from “rural” to “commercial” for Tax Map U36, Lot 8, which is the Kilton’s property.

According to Code Enforcement Officer Boni Rickett, prior to the town’s Comprehensive Plan being approved by the state several years ago, state officials required the town to designate a section of Route 302 as “rural.” The state did this, Rickett explained, because they did not want to see all of Route 302 in Naples zoned as “commercial.” So, the town’s comprehensive plan was approved by the state, only after the north side of Route 302 from the Naples Public Safety Building west to Kansas Road was deemed as “rural,” Rickett said. Properties on the south side of Route 302 are deemed “commercial,” she said.

Now, comes the Kilton family, which has operated different businesses out of the same property on the north side of Route 302 over the years, according to David Kilton.

Kilton said it “came as a surprise” when the family found out, after closing the café, that any new business at the same location would not be “grandfathered,” or allowed to operate there.

“So, now our son’s got thousands of dollars worth of bicycles in a building he can’t put a sign up on,” David Kilton told the planning board members, at the public hearing held March 15.

Planning Board Chairman Larry Anton told Kilton it is his personal opinion that, if the Village District were extended out to that location as “commercial,” it would be a case “of spot zoning with residential properties on either side of you — that is not the best thing.”

Anton explained further that he, personally, does not have a problem with the Kilton’s request for a zoning change, but noted that others could come in and purchase the same property in the future and possibly want to “put in a factory building, or a gas station or a bar.”

“Once it’s approved, anything goes,” stated Anton.

“I, personally, don’t want to see businesses go out of town,” said Planning Board member Jim Allen. “I would like to see us approve this (requested change and forward it on to selectmen for the calling of a special town meeting for voters to act on it).”

“We were kind of surprised, and we couldn’t understand why they are making it difficult for a young man to open a shop,” David Kilton said. “If you’re going to grandfather anything, shouldn’t it be grandfathered to a specific use?”

“I have no problem with a bicycle shop,” Anton replied, “but, the (requested zoning change) wouldn’t just allow you to put a bicycle shop in — it would allow you to put anything in.”

‘Tourist town’ or ‘ghost town’?

“You’re making it difficult and restrictive to open a business in Maine,” Kilton said. “Naples is going to be a ghost town, if you can’t open a business here. Naples is a tourist town, and it’s going to be a ghost town. You’ve got to have new businesses — new blood…This town’s not going to survive and progress, if they’re afraid to do anything. There are other ways around this.”

“I’m sure this will be worked out, eventually,” Chairman Anton told Kilton. He then explained how the state wouldn’t approve the town’s comprehensive plan, unless a section of Route 302 was designated as “rural” rather than “commercial,” he said, “because they (the state) didn’t want ‘commercial’ from one end of town to the other.”

Planning Board member John Thompson, who was the town’s longtime code enforcement officer prior to Rickett’s tenure, told Kilton, “I’ve got one thing to add, and Larry said it earlier — we wanted this (where Kilton’s property is located) to be ‘commercial’ with three-phase power and everything — that’s what it’s going to be, at some point — but the state turned it (the ‘commercial’ designation) down — so, the only recourse someone like you has is to come back through and go through the process.”

“That’s the problem,” Anton stated. “That’s where we are now with the ordinance. I’m just concerned with one ‘commercial’ property being surrounded by waterfront (residential) properties on all sides.

The four planning board members present then voted on Allen’s motion “to accept the change from ‘rural’ to ‘commercial’, as presented,” seconded by Thompson. Board members Allen, Thompson and Mark Clement voted in favor of Allen’s motion, while Anton cast the only dissenting vote.

Following the board’s vote, Anton told Kilton, “All I can say is, ‘I hope the town changes the ordinance soon, so we don’t have any more problems with that…It has to go to a special town meeting now, and special town meetings are sparsely attended.”

“My objection is having a commercial property there surrounded by residences,” Anton further told Kilton. “I’m not concerned about you — I’m just concerned that if you sell the property what could go in there.”

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