ROCKLAND, Maine — The City Council unanimously agreed Monday night to postpone a vote for three months on a zone change for the rural western section of the city after it came under criticism both from the council and the public.
Critics said the proposed rural residential zone change would unfairly limit the ability of landowners to use their properties.
Gregory Knight, whose family has run Mid-Knight Auto on Old County Road since 1985, voiced concern whether the rezoning proposal was part of a bigger plan that includes the Gateway 1 planning for Route 1 and Agenda 21, a United Nations plan that he said would take away property rights.
“Why is this being done?” Knight asked.
Knight pointed out that one part of the zoning change for rural residential areas would limit commercial activities on his section of Old County Road to within 200 feet of the road. The family auto business uses property that extends more than 300 feet from the road.
He said efforts such as Smart Growth planning and Agenda 21 usurp property and constitutional rights of landowners.
“This fits into the Smart Growth template that results in a massive reshuffling of property rights,” Knight said.
According to supporters, Agenda 21 is a U.N. resolution that promotes sustainability by urging countries to use fewer resources and to conserve land by steering development in already dense areas. Opponents see it as a conspiracy to deny property rights and push people to live in more urban areas.
Knight said that the area between Old County and West Meadow Road is the last frontier of undeveloped land in Rockland. He noted that the Smart Growth and Agenda 21 promote high-density housing projects.
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson said she was concerned about the limit the proposed changes would place on property owners. She said she owns 3.5 acres and could divide that property into two lots. Under the new plan, however, subdividing the property would be barred since there would be a 2-acre minimum requirement for development of land not connected to the public sewer system.
“It’s distressing to see this kind of codification of suburbia. We essentially want to be left alone,” Dickerson said.
Councilor Frank Isganitis pointed out that letters were sent to all landowners in the area being proposed for rezoning and that there was a public hearing by the city’s comprehensive plan committee a year ago.
He said the proposals seek to strike a balance that encourages development and maintains the rural character of the area. He said the rezoning has nothing to do with Agenda 21.
“I had never heard of Agenda 21 until someone brought it up here,” Isganitis said.
Isganitis said that the proposal would not allow high density residential development. He also said that amendments may be needed to address specific concerns such as the 200-foot limit faced by the Knight family.
Dickerson also noted that under the rezoning package, a riding stable would need to get approval from the planning board as a conditional use in the area.
Councilor Eric Hebert said that instead of considering numerous individual proposed amendments Monday night, the council should hold a meeting specifically for these proposals.
”This is a fairly sweeping ordinance that affects a large chunk of the city,” Hebert said.
He called for a workshop with the comprehensive plan committee and councilors agreed to postpone any vote on the matter until the July 8 meeting.