By Diana Bowley of the Bangor Daily News: DEXTER - Some town officials believe a one-size-fits-all approach for a shore-land zoning ordinance is not appropriate for a small community struggling to foster economic growth.
The Town Council on Thursday had been expected to act on proposed shore-land zoning changes that would be incorporated into the local ordinance. Dexter, like all Maine municipalities, is required to update its shore-land zoning to comply with revised Department of Environmental Protection minimum guidelines by July 2008.
The council, however, tabled action on the proposed changes at the request of the Dexter Regional Development Corp. The corporation is worried that the changes may stymie business development, and it has a case at hand.
Gerald Nessmann of Dover-Foxcroft had requested a permit to open two businesses — an ice cream shop and a nonmotorized watercraft rental service — on a Grove Street property he owns on the shore of Lake Wassookeag. The building and garage were used as a home and business respectively under previous ownership.
Jana Wood, the town's code enforcement officer, had recently recommended that the planning board not approve the permit. Wood believes that, according to the town's code, the 1988 garage on the property is nonconforming. She also noted that the lot, which is in a limited commercial shore-land zone, does not fit the acreage in the criteria. Wood believes that the building is not grandfathered and that it should revert to residential.
On Thursday, Wood told the council she was looking into how to make the rules less restrictive than the state's, since Dexter has some unique needs for business development. She plans to meet with DEP officials to look over the waterfront properties from Grove Street to Church Street to see what could be done. She said the planning board may be looking for a lot-size reduction for businesses.
Judy Wilbur Craig, a member of the Town Council and DRDC, said the DRDC is pro-business. "We know that we're not likely to get a factory or large business anymore, and we have to look out for these small home-based businesses whether they are on shore-land or not."
Craig said the acreage criteria in the current ordinance are not being responsive to small businesses. "It should be considered the footprint of the building because you can fit multiple business within a footprint of a building and it won't have any impact on the shore-land zone."
In a letter to the planning board, Nessmann wrote that since he had acquired the property he has been using it commercially for the operation of other businesses he owns. After closely reviewing the town's zoning ordinance, Nessmann said, he and his attorney have concluded that a permit is not necessary since he is neither changing or expanding the building. He urged the planning board to review the ordinance as it applies to the limited commercial zone.
"The way the ordinance is currently written and interpreted, the long-term outcome would be the conversion of the limited commercial to a residential zone, which, based on my conversations with a number of members of the community does not appear the intention of town government," Nessmann wrote.
Craig said the DRDC "is taking a stand that we would like to see some of these changes made before the state-mandated ordinance is passed so we don't have to revisit it later."
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