DAMARISCOTTA, Maine — Days after the Board of Selectmen decided against pursuing a moratorium on commercial development, residents submitted a petition to the town to enact a temporary ban on new buildings for retail use larger than 2,500 square feet and any new construction, expansion, or use requiring town approval.
The town office received the petition the late afternoon of Monday, Aug. 7. In order for the petition to be certified, the petition needs at least 116 signatures — 10 percent of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election — of town residents.
Ten residents circulated the petitions, including Selectwoman Amy Leshure and Planning Board member Shari Sage.
The petition calls for a temporary ban on new retail buildings larger than 2,500 square feet and on any new construction, expansion or use that requires approval under the town’s zoning and land use ordinances and regulations.
The moratorium would give the town at least 180 days to “develop and implement the necessary amendments to zoning and land use ordinances and regulations to accommodate these development pressures.”
“The town of Damariscotta is suddenly under threat of increased development pressure from large scale retail development,” the petition states. “This development pressure was unanticipated and has not been adequately provided for in the town’s current land use ordinance.
“Continued large scale retail development could pose serious threats to the public health, safety, and welfare of the residents of Damariscotta through the over-development of parts of town with such businesses without adequate provisions for issues of safety, sewage, water, roads, and land use compatibility and visual access to view corridors,” the petition continues.
According to the petition, the moratorium would be retroactive to June 7 and extend through Dec. 4. If the town finds that the issue necessitating the moratorium still exists and that reasonable progress is being made to alleviate the problem, the moratorium could be extended to June 1, 2018, if voters choose.
The petition was submitted hours before the meeting of the Damariscotta Planning Board, which was scheduled to hear a proposal from Damariscotta Main Street LLC for the property at 435 Main St., between Hannaford Supermarket and the Lincoln County Rifle Club and across the street from Dunkin’ Donuts and The Penalty Box.
Daniel Catlin, CEO of Commercial Properties Inc., of Portland, is the developer and prospective buyer of the property, according to a purchase-and-sale agreement for the property.
A plan submitted to the town calls for the construction of three commercial buildings: a 22,000-square-foot-building for two retail stores, a 5,525-square-foot building with three retail spaces, and a 2,700-square-foot bank with a drive-thru.
The petition is the most recent demonstration in increase in interest in commercial development in Damariscotta. In response, the selectmen formed an advisory committee tasked with developing an amendment to the land use ordinance integrating the concept of form-based codes. The selectmen have tasked the committee to produce a draft document within the next few months, which will then go to the public for discussion before a final version is created and sent to a townwide vote.
News of the Portland developer’s proposal to develop the 11-acre property along Main Street, however, led to three separate inquiries about whether the town should enact a moratorium on any new commercial development until the committee completes its work.
When the topic was discussed during the Aug. 1 board meeting, Selectmen Mark Hagar, Robin Mayer, and Ronn Orenstein spoke against the idea of moving forward with the moratorium, while Leshure was in favor of enacting the temporary ban.
If at least 116 signatures from Damariscotta residents are validated on the petition, the selectmen have 60 days to call a special town meeting to address it. The next meeting of the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen is scheduled for Aug. 15 in the town office.