Rockland farm stand debate comes to head over pumpkins, corn stalks

The Steve Carroll property has been the center of a controversy over zoning in Rockland.
Stephen Betts
The Steve Carroll property has been the center of a controversy over zoning in Rockland. Buy Photo
Posted Oct. 15, 2013, at 2:34 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A local businessman who has tried for more than a year to get permission to run a farm stand at his Old County Road home has been notified by the city that he must stop selling pumpkins and corn stalks or face fines.

The city’s code enforcement office issued a notice of violation Friday to Stephen Carroll.

“This is silly, it’s unwarranted,” Carroll said Tuesday about the warning he received.

Code Officer John Root said it is clear that retail operations are not allowed in the residential zone where Carroll lives. Home businesses are allowed, however, enabling Carroll to repair small appliances and his wife to sew and do alterations from their house.

The code officer said that Carroll could appeal his order about the farm stand to the zoning board of appeals.

Carroll said he unsuccessfully followed the process last year to have his property, located at the intersection of Old County Road and Lake Avenue, rezoned.

The resident went before the city’s comprehensive planning committee which recommended a major overhaul of zoning for land west of Old County Road, including Carroll’s property, that would have allowed him to operate a farm stand. But that overall package met with opposition from other residents and ultimately the city council approved a rural zone change that did not include parcels fronting Old County Road.

A few weeks ago, Carroll met with city councilors about a possible contract zone change for his specific property. But the homeowner said he balked when he learned he would have to pay $750 to cover the costs of advertising for the city to publicize the zone change proposal.

“I could shell out the $750 as well as other costs and have no guarantee that the change would be approved. Then I would be out the $750,” Carroll said.

He then decided to put out some pumpkins and a sign. That is when he got the letter from the code office warning him that he faced fines of between $100 and $2,500 per day for the activity.

The code officer said that if someone grows the produce on their land, it can be sold in front of the home but that produce can’t be brought in and sold. That would create a retail operation in a residential zone, he said.

The homeowner said Old County Road is a heavily traveled road filled with businesses just a short distance up the street — though in a different zone — including auto repair shops, commercial offices, a veterinarian’s office and a branch office of the Maine Department of Motor Vehicle. A convenience store is adjacent to his property at the intersection of Old County Road and Route 17. In addition, the planning board was scheduled to review Tuesday night a plan by a couple to build a take-out food stand at the opposite corner of Old County and Route 17 from the convenience store and within sight of Carroll’s property.

Carroll said he is considering erecting a greenhouse and then selling produce but said it makes no sense to prevent him from doing what he is trying to do now.

“I’ve already lost one season. I don’t want to lose another,” he said.

The code officer said if Carroll were to follow through on the contract zone change he would be able to sell fruits and vegetables in front of his house as long as he lives there.

“That’s not a bad deal for $750,” Root said.

Carroll said the issue is moot for the moment since he sold all the produce he had out in front of his home.

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