June 25, 2018
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Surry residents to receive survey on property rules that might divide ‘haves and have-nots’

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff

SURRY, Maine — Every resident of Surry will soon have an opportunity to weigh in on two controversial proposals that could change the landscape of the town’s residential and village areas.

A five-page survey will be sent Friday to all residents in the town, asking them to comment in on proposals to halve minimum lot sizes in the Village and Residential Growth zones, from about an acre to a half-acre, and to triple minimum lot sizes in the town’s rural zone, from one acre to three.

The proposals are on the table for Surry’s updated Comprehensive Plan, which lapsed in 2011, making the town ineligible for many forms of state aid, including Community Development Block Grants and priority status with the Maine Department of Transportation. Legally, the town’s zoning ordinances carry no status unless a compliant comprehensive plan is in effect.

According to the survey, proponents say the proposals will help the town’s tiny village center thrive by attracting young families with the half-acre lot sizes along Route 172, and will ensure the maintenance of the town’s “rural nature” outside the village.

Others say the changes could increase traffic congestion and parking issues in the village area while limiting landowners’ ability to subdivide their properties in the rural zones, according to the survey.

While the survey outlines the above described pros and cons to each proposal before asking residents for their input, one concern is absent: That the huge increase in rural zone lot-size requirements could create geographic class division in Surry.

In August, one Comprehensive Plan Committee member said that an increased lot size requirement in the rural zone, which includes the more expensive Newbury Neck and Morgan Bay areas, would “create a big division” by making lots in the area cost-prohibitive for less wealthy families.

“The have-nots will live in the village zone, and the haves will live in the rural area,” said committee member Valerie Moon.

The committee decided in August to survey the entire town after only a few dozen people responded to the proposals in public meetings and an earlier, smaller survey. The survey will be sent to all residents, regardless of whether they’re eligible to vote.

A proposal to increase the rural lot size to four acres failed in 2005, and the committee wanted to ensure this time that the desires of the community are well-known before the Comprehensive Plan goes to a vote.

Residents will have until Nov. 30 to return the survey.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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