June 19, 2018
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Dexter Planning Board to mull possible zoning changes for property near Wassookeag Lake

By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

DEXTER, Maine — The Dexter Planning Board has called in a member of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to help resolve a zoning situation near Wassookeag Lake.

Stephenie MacLagan of the Bureau of Land and Water Quality of the DEP specializes in shoreland zoning and was asked to attended the planning board’s meeting on June 13.

“She has drafted proposed language for the board to consider,” said Dexter Code Enforcement Officer Jana Wood.

At issue is the western edge of the 42-acre property that previously housed Dexter’s high school. The property was purchased by Gerry Marshall, who plans to develop the land.

Marshall’s first obstacle is rezoning the west side of the property along Big Wassookeag Lake. He plans on placing four camps, a lodge and a toboggan run in a shoreland protected zone.

Some of the shoreline has a slope of 20 percent or greater, which puts it in resource protection. However, most of the land is less than 20 percent, said Wood, which means exceptions are possible for building.

“Twenty percent or less drops it out of the state mandated resource protection,” said Wood. “Many of those acres of 20 percent are continuous with 20 percent or more. We’re attempting, through a text amendment, to state that those slopes less than 20 percent could essentially have a zone change and could allow restructure with conditions.”

Dexter Lakes Association president Steve Wintle was one of several voices expressing concern over development of the property during the last planning board meeting.

“Have you talked to the Dexter Utility District?” Wintle asked. He was also concerned about tests done on the lake for water quality, chlorine and algae. “We’re concerned about commercial activity [and its impact on the lake].”

Albert Hodsdon of A.E. Hodsdon Consulting Engineers of Waterville, who was hired by Marshall, said it wouldn’t be fair to require Marshall to pay for these tests when other lake property owners wouldn’t have to.

“You do have the authority to get test data,” said Wintle to the board, adding that the Dexter Lakes Association is not against development. “This size development is unprecedented. We encourage you to get all the data.”

The other zoning change Marshall requested affects the top of the hill where the former schools and gym reside.

The land is currently listed as residential, however, Hodsdon said Marshall would like it rezoned to be commercial in order to include a campground. However, campgrounds are not allowed in a commercial zone either.

“The campground is not allowed in residential or commercial [zones],” said Wood. “We’re having to make some pretty major changes [in order for a campground to be allowed in that zone].”

Wood said changes could be made to the town’s commercial zone to allow campgrounds, but it would need to go before the town council and then to a public hearing.

Marshall said his first plan for the property would be to move five former outbuildings the school used for classrooms toward the Grove Street side of the lot. The next move would be building the main lodge on the west side.

“I’m not spending a dime without that lodge,” said Marshall. He said he intends to have his family use the lodge and four surrounding buildings on the west side near the lake.

The planning board meets again on Thursday, when the board will review and possibly decide to recommend to the town council or decline MacLagan’s shoreland zoning amendment.

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