Rockland councilors OK rural zone overhaul

Posted Sept. 09, 2013, at 9:36 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland City Council gave final approval Monday night to an overhaul of zoning in a large section of the rural part of the community.

The vote was 3-1 with Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson opposed and Councilor Eric Hebert absent.

Dickerson said one of her main criticisms of the proposal is that it requires a minimum of 2 acres for lots. She said this would prevent people from dividing up land either for sale or to pass down to a family member as has been done for centuries.

“Please, don’t take away my property rights,” she said.

After considerable discussion of whether Dickerson had a conflict of interest, the council was informed that Dickerson’s property on West Meadow Road was no longer included in the zoning boundaries.

The current zoning proposal has been changed from a package that was met with criticism from the public earlier this year. The revised zoning proposal no longer encompasses properties fronting Old County Road, Lake Avenue or Lake View Drive (Route 17).

Dickerson conceded there were many parts of the ordinance that she supported but the minimum lot size was too large. She also questioned whether the ordinance would do what it seeks — encourage farming.

Councilor Larry Pritchett said Monday the new zoning is a better fit than the current zoning. He said it was a positive, forward-looking approach that encourages farming and locally grown food.

“Time will tell if anyone uses the new zoning,” he said.

Pritchett also said that a 2-acre minimum lot size was not unusual and that other midcoast communities have larger minimum lot sizes.

At last month’s meeting Councilor Frank Isganitis said one piece of land owned by a single individual in the region west of Old County Road was as large as the entire residential zone in the city’s South End waterfront neighborhood. He said if that person were to divide the land into numerous lots under the existing standards, it would forever change the rural part of the city.

In a 4-0 vote, the council also gave final approval to placing a $586,000 bond referendum on the Nov. 5 municipal ballot for a shed to store road salt and sand.

Resident Carol Harris said the building was needed to protect wetlands. The salt and sand are now stored in the open on the public works property on Burrows Street off Pleasant Street. The salt drains off into the Weskeag Marsh during rain.

Harris said she was disappointed, however, that while salt and sand were being given shelter, the public works employees are remaining in an inadequate building. Councilors opted against placing a new public works garage on the ballot.

Pritchett said the salt and sand shed was important to prevent the loss of material, to prevent it from clumping and being less effective when spread on the roads, and to prevent polluting the Weskeag River.

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