ROCKLAND, Maine — In a nearly packed City Council chamber Wednesday night, all but two residents stood in opposition to a package of proposed zoning changes for the rural sections of the city.
Lawyer Wayne Crandall spoke in opposition to the proposal during a council workshop on the plan developed over the past two years by the Rockland Comprehensive Planning Committee, which is an advisory panel to the council.
“The regulations are far excessive and unnecessary,” Crandall said.
He asked for supporters and opponents to stand when asked how they stood on the proposals. Two people stood in support and approximately 40 stood in opposition.
Michael Lane, who represents Aldersgate United Methodist Church, which is located off Route 17, pointed out that churches are not an allowed use in the proposed revised zone. The church eventually wants to construct a sanctuary on the property but would be prohibited, he said.
“I fail to see how a church would interfere with the rural character of the neighborhoods,” Lane said. “It boggles my mind.”
Peter Proeller of West Meadow Road said increasing the minimum lot size from 1 to 2 acres would be detrimental to the community.
“If we limit how many people can pay taxes, the rest of the people will pay more,” Proeller said.
Proeller expressed concern about the level of taxes, saying 20 percent to 30 percent of his income goes to property taxes and he may have to move outside the city if they increase more.
George Knight, founder of Mid-Knight Auto Repair and Sales, said when he purchased his Old County Road property in 1983, the land was located in a commercial zone and it has been changed several times since then. He said he has had to fight city hall to have 30 cars in his front lot and 20 in the rear.
The proposed rules under the new zoning would limit him to having vehicles within 200 feet of Old County Road while his 6.5 acres goes back 800 feet.
Charles Crafford of Lilac Court said increasing the minimum lot size made no sense.
“We are a city. We are not Appleton, where there is a 3-acre minimum,” Crafford said.
Crandall criticized several items in the proposals. One portion he voiced opposition to was the requirement that any subdivision in the new proposed rural residential zone — which encompasses a majority of the city — to clustered housing development.
Restricting farm stands in the area also made no sense if the city wants to encourage a rural setting, he said.
Adam Ackor of Old County Road said there was no guarantee that if the city enacted the rural residential zone restrictions that neighboring Thomaston and Rockport would follow suit and thus increased traffic would not be prevented.
Donald Hilt of Old County Road also voiced opposition to the change to the rural zone. He said that traffic already has increased dramatically since he built his home in 1970. He said the construction of Pen Bay Medical Center in the 1970s and the installation of traffic lights in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in people using Old County Road as a bypass.
Ted Cowan of Talbot Avenue claimed the proposal is part of the United Nations Agenda 21 effort to strip people of property rights, shift the population into urban areas and leave rural areas undeveloped.
The rural residential package was even questioned by a member of the comprehensive planning commission. Eileen Wilkerson said that the current members of the panel were not even on the committee when the zoning proposals were developed.
“I didn’t work on it. I don’t even agree with everything on it,” Wilkerson said.
Commission member Ann Morris said she had concerns about the proposals.
“We’re taking away property rights and reducing the ability to get more property taxes,” Morris said.
Councilor Frank Isganitis, who was on the comprehensive committee when the plan was developed, said the panel felt that the current zoning would allow a densely populated area to be created that would be out of character for the region.
Councilor Eric Hebert praised the committee for its work but said he considers the proposals “dead on arrival.”
Mayor William Clayton stressed to the public that the council was presented the zoning package three months ago but decided to take no action until residents could be notified of the proposals and then a meeting such as Wednesday night’s session could be held.
The council was going through the proposed zoning package Wednesday evening. No date has been set for when a vote would be held on it or whether they would send it back to the commission.