March 18, 2018
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Dexter planners to revisit mass-gathering ordinance after negative public response

By Mike Lange, Piscataquis Observer

DEXTER, Maine — The Dexter Planning Board spent numerous hours earlier this year crafting a mass-gathering ordinance designed to monitor activities drawing large crowds to the community.

But the Town Council wasn’t happy with the ordinance with some members saying that the feedback from the public was overwhelmingly negative. So at the July 10 meeting, the council voted to send it back to the planning board “for further review.”

Last week, the planning board agreed to rework the proposal into something more palatable.

Under the original proposal, fees would have ranged from $500 for events with up to 1,000 attendees to $1,000 for 1,501 or more; and applicants would have been required to post legal notices in the local newspaper 90, 60 and 30 days in advance.

Newly-elected chairman Richard Gilbert noted that the law was sparked by a huge party last year that started as a private gathering.

“But once word got out online, everybody started coming, and things reportedly got out of hand,” Gilbert said.

Peter Haskell, a former councilor serving on the planning board, said he preferred a simple permit rather than a complicated application “just so people would know what’s going on.”

Dexter Planning Board Secretary Susan Page said that a lot of complaints the town office received about the new regulations were from nonprofit organizations such as Kiwanis, which may want to have a fundraiser designed to draw a lot of patrons.

“But they’d have to pay [a permit fee] like everyone else,” Page said.

Gerry Marshall, who also was on the agenda for an unrelated matter, said that the town already has nuisance and noise ordinances on the books, and the police department is able to deal with the complaints.

“Do we need more rules and regulations to live with? I thought of having some small concerts up on the hill [on his property in Dexter]. But how am I supposed to know how many will show up? One-hundred people? Five-hundred?” he asked.

Code Enforcement Officer Al Tempesta said he agreed with those who had reservations about the new ordinance but noted that some outdoor events “could be just like someone buying $500 worth of fireworks and shooting them off next to your house.”

As far as Dexter’s noise ordinance goes, Tempesta said that the town’s electronic monitor hasn’t been calibrated since 1999, “and I would have to take a class [to use it], and the permit would only be good for a year.”

Haskell said that people probably wouldn’t object to a “$25 or $50 fee just to cover the cost of doing the paperwork.”

Tempesta said that if the board preferred, he would draft a sample permit and bring it back to the next meeting.

On a motion by Geraldine Mountain, the board voted to table any action on the mass-gathering ordinance until the planning board’s August meeting, normally held on the fourth Thursday of the month.


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