Dexter planners considering mass gathering ordinance in wake of complaints after outdoor party

Posted Sept. 04, 2013, at 2:26 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 08, 2013, at 6:18 p.m.

DEXTER, Maine — Does the town of Dexter need an ordinance regulating outdoor activities that could draw a huge crowd to the community? The Dexter Planning Board thinks so.

After discussing the issue at their Aug. 29 meeting, the Planning Board is now studying ordinances in other communities. If they can agree on the language of the statute, it could be presented to the Town Council for final enactment within two months.

An outdoor party off the Old Garland Road in May that reportedly drew several hundred people generated several complaints from area residents. Questions came up about whether the town could regulate events on private property, but several other communities have successfully enacted ordinances, according to Code Enforcement Officer Al Tempesta Jr.

“When you’re talking about something that involves potential response from police and fire departments, then yes — we can regulate it,” Tempesta said.

The Planning Board looked over mass gathering ordinances from Saco, Presque Isle and a generic ordinance from the state, but the Presque Isle version appeared to be the favorite. According to the statute, “No person, corporation, organization or other entity, landowner or lessee shall exhibit, sponsor, hold, promote or operate any pageant, amusement show, live or recorded musical entertainment, theatrical performance or other public assemblage, where in excess of 400 people are reasonably anticipated to attend and where a substantial portion of the exhibitors, sponsors, promoters, operators, attendees will be out of doors without procuring a license [before] from the Code Enforcement Officer.”

Planning Board member Geraldine Mountain asked if the ordinance would be applicable to events in Dexter’s public parks such as a wedding. Yes, said board secretary Kim Hughes. “They have to make reservations to prevent anyone else from the public from using the park at the same time,” Hughes said. “The recreation department controls the use.”

The Presque Isle ordinance also specifically exempts entities that traditionally draw large crowds like the Northern Maine Fair or the schools.

One portion of the Saco ordinance that the Dexter planners seemed to like was the hours when it would be enforced: 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. So Tempesta suggested that the board pick the best features of all three ordinances, combine them into one document and bring their findings back to the next meeting.

“Or you can start with the Presque Isle ordinance and ‘Dexterize’ it,” Tempesta said.

The Dexter Planning Board also gave final approval to Gerry Marshall’s Abbott Hill rental properties at the site of the old middle and grammar schools. Marshall purchased the former Dexter school buildings and the 42-acre lot two years ago and is in the process of converting five modular classrooms into efficiency apartment duplexes.

Marshall said that he was happy with the progress of construction. “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished up there,” Marshall said. “One unit is 99 percent complete and the others are in various stages of completion. All the groundwork is done. We just need to get the bathrooms and kitchens finished.” Marshall also built rock pools on the site to catch runoff from the parking lots near the old school buildings.

Marshall said he’ll hold an open house for the completed unit and try to rent it first. “If there are any problems, it’s easier to deal with one unit than 10,” he said. He anticipates that rent will be in the $650 to $750 per month range which will include heat, utilities and snow plowing.

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