MOUNT DESERT, Maine — Voters decided this week to approve four proposed changes to the town’s land use regulations.
According to Joelle Nolan, town clerk for Mount Desert, all four proposals were handily approved by voice votes at Tuesday’s special town meeting. Rather than casting ballots, voters who gathered at the local elementary school indicated their support for each question by saying “aye” or “nay.”
Among the questions was whether to adopt local development and operating standards for cell phone towers. Selectmen adopted a development moratorium on communications towers last February after several companies made inquiries at the town office about erecting such towers in Mount Desert. Before Tuesday’s vote, the town had no restrictions on towers less than 40 feet tall and exempted communications towers taller than 40 feet.
The 180-day moratorium approved by selectmen in February and then reaffirmed by voters in May was extended for another 180 days this past summer by selectmen. Tuesday’s vote was intended to get standards in place before the moratorium expires in February 2010, Town Manager Michael MacDonald has said.
MacDonald said the ordinance closely resembles the cell phone tower ordinance in neighboring Bar Harbor.
“We’re in a rush to get it done,” MacDonald said last week.
The town manager said the town still has yet to receive any cell phone tower development applications “but we know people are looking.”
MacDonald said because the proposal was going before voters at a special town meeting it will have to be voted on again at the regular annual town meeting in May 2010 before it becomes permanent.
Voters also unanimously decided to have the town give up its right of first refusal to a 35-acre property west of Lower Hadlock Pond that is owned by the local water district. The district plans to sell the parcel for $3 million to Maine Coast Heritage Trust, which then will hold onto the property until it can be purchased by Acadia National Park. The parcel abuts the park.
Voters also decided to upgrade the town’s land use ordinance and its maps to reflect state regulations on shoreland zoning restrictions, according to Nolan.