MDI ordinances up for referendum next week

Posted Oct. 27, 2010, at 12:48 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:07 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A handful of towns in Hancock County will have local questions on their ballots next week when voters head to the polls Nov. 2 for the statewide election.

Voters in Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor will be asked to consider changes to local ordinances. In a nonbinding vote in Lamoine, voters will be asked whether the town should conduct its annual town meeting through secret ballot rather than with an open town meeting.

In Bar Harbor, residents will have the chance to weigh in on six proposed land use ordinance amendments. Some deal with proposed changes to the town’s land use maps while other proposals would consolidate separate zoning districts that have identical standards.

“We’re trying to reduce the number of districts,” Anne Krieg, Bar Harbor’s town planner, said Tuesday.

One proposed new district would be called the Shoreland General Development III zone and would allow commercial uses along the eastern side of Route 3 on outer Eden Street. The neighborhood is now zoned residential but has several hotels and a ferry terminal, which are grandfathered as nonconforming uses.

Another proposal would expand the Ireson Hill Corridor district to include the Best Western hotel, which is owned by hotelier David J. Witham. With the current zoning, Witham cannot expand the hotel unless he first gets an approved variance waiver from the town’s appeals board, according to Krieg. With the expanded district, Witham could expand the hotel with normal planning board approval, she said.

In Southwest Harbor, voters will be asked to adopt a proposed new comprehensive plan and to change the way the town’s sewer and water departments fund their debt service, according to town officials. Each department now services debt with user fees, but the changes would permit the departments to repay debts with local property tax funds.

Southwest Harbor voters also will consider changing the local harbor ordinance so appeals of harbor master decisions are brought to the town’s appeals board rather than to the harbor committee, according to Town Manager Robin Bennett.

Don LaGrange, the town’s code enforcement officer, said two proposed land use ordinance amendments would be on the ballot. One would clarify language in the town’s shoreland zoning ordinance and eliminate repetitive clauses throughout the land use ordinance. The other would clarify definitions in the town’s general land use ordinance, he said.

In Lamoine, selectmen hope results in the nonbinding referendum question will give them a better idea of how residents want the annual town meeting to be run.

Stu Marckoon, administrative assistant to Lamoine selectmen, said Tuesday that a few years ago approximately 125 residents signed a petition in favor of adopting an ordinance that would have required all issues on the town meeting warrant to be decided by secret ballot. Selectmen later rejected the petition after they were advised that adopting such an ordinance would violate state law, Marckoon said.

But, short of adopting an ordinance, selectmen could voluntarily decide to hold town meeting by secret ballot, he said.

Marckoon said there are pros and cons with either format. There likely would be higher turnout with secret ballots, he said, but residents would not be able to amend any of the proposals, as they now can in an open town meeting format.

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