Restaurants not technically allowed under downtown Bangor code; city looks to correct

Fiddlehead co-owner Laura Albin (standing) in Sept. 2009.
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Fiddlehead co-owner Laura Albin (standing) in Sept. 2009. Buy Photo
Posted April 14, 2014, at 4:23 p.m.
Last modified April 14, 2014, at 9:07 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — This may come as a surprise to thousands of people who dine in Bangor every year, but restaurants technically aren’t permitted downtown.

Taverns, bars and lounges are OK in Bangor’s downtown under the conditional permitted uses of the Downtown Development District, according to the land development code. Missing from that list are restaurants, according to city attorneys.

Bangor councilors sent an amendment to the city’s land development code on to the planning board Monday night in hopes of correcting that oversight.

“The ordinance probably wasn’t written as well as it should have been,” City Solicitor Norm Heitmann said during a Business and Economic Development Committee meeting last week.

Assistant City Solicitor Paul Nicklas recently was tasked with digging through the city codes, making changes to Bangor’s definitions of restaurants, bars, taverns and lounges to sync with the definitions of the state.

During that process, he noticed that restaurants weren’t listed among the allowable uses for downtown space.

On Monday night, city councilors considered an amendment to the land development code that would update the city’s definitions of restaurants, bars, taverns and lounges to fall more in line with the state’s definitions. It also would amend the code to allow restaurants downtown. The issue was referred to the planning board meeting on May 20.

Nicklas said the last time this part of the Land Development Code was amended was 2000, but that it’s unclear how long that inconsistency has existed and it probably carried through multiple versions of the code.

“It won’t change the way anyone operates and it won’t change what they can or can’t do,” Heitmann said.

However, the change should clear up confusion and contradictions when the city has to look to the guidance of that part of the code in the future.

What other oddities are lurking within Bangor’s lengthy list of ordinances and codes?

Nicklas pointed out a couple of notables:

• Subsection 234-7 of city code, titled “Deposit of vegetables and fruit on streets,” states that it is illegal for any person to throw any “fruit or vegetable or part thereof” onto any public street, sidewalk or crosswalk. The ordinance specifically mentions banana and orange peels.

• Subsection 234-5 says, “No person shall suffer his or her cellar door, or passage from the sidewalk into any cellar or basement, to be kept open when not in immediate use or, in any case, after sunset, unless a good and sufficient light shall be constantly kept at the entrance of such door or passage. This section shall not exempt such person from liability for damages for any injury caused by said door or passage.”

The bulk of weird ordinances likely disappeared during sweeping code revisions in the 1990s, according to Nicklas.

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