March 4, 2010

Vassalboro residents call shoreland zoning rules property taking

BY MARY GROW, Correspondent

VASSALBORO -- Marshall Crandall purchased his four acres on China Lake four years ago -- partly, he said, because Vassalboro had so few "intrusive ordinances."

Now he alleges proposed changes in resource protection zoning would cost him another 100 feet of development rights to protect a water body he can't use anyway.

Jeffrey Freeman asked Planning Board members why the state wants his 375-feet along the Kennebec River.

They were two of more than two dozen residents at Tuesday evening's public hearing on proposed changes in resource protection zoning who were vocal about what they see as government telling them they can't use their property.

The proposed rezoning would create a 250-foot resource protection zone along China Lake, the Kennebec River and other water bodies and wetlands. The major difference between current zoning and resource protection is that no new structure could be built in the 250-foot zone, Code Enforcement Officer Paul Mitnik said.

Planning Board member Douglas Phillips initially was not satisfied that all the land along the lake and river met at least one of the eight resource protection criteria listed in state and town ordinances.

After the meeting adjourned, he, Mitnik and board Chairman Virginia Brackett reviewed tax maps and decided landowners won't be significantly affected.

The Kennebec Water District owns at least 100 feet along China Lake -- more, in some places -- as a drinking-water source. Landowners such as Crandall do not have shore frontage. Allowing for the setback from the property line, any new building would be over 100 feet from the water in the best case.

Railroad tracks run along the Kennebec River, making building unlikely even in the few -- if any -- places where there is land that is neither steep nor so flat it floods.

Phillips suggested Mitnik try to get an extra copy of the tax maps showing river properties and draw a 250-foot line on them to show how little buildable space the railroad leaves.

Vassalboro voters will make the final decision on accepting or rejecting the proposed changes June 7 at their annual Town Meeting.

Mitnik said if voters reject the map, the state will impose resource protection zoning.

Kennebec Water District trustee Al Hodsdon emphasized that the rezoning is a state mandate, not the water district's.

"We have nothing to do with it," he said.

After the 45-minute hearing, Planning Board members approved two commercial applications and discussed three other matters.

Permits were granted for an addition on the back of Freddie's Service Center on Main Street in East Vassalboro and for MacKenzie Landscaping to create a sales lot on land just west of the former craft shop on Route 3.

Board members held preliminary discussions with Leah Cook, operating an organic food distribution center in part of the old woolen mill in North Vassalboro; and Michael Willette, seeking to put up a cell tower on the former LaLime farm on Bog Road near of Vassalboro Community School. Both applications are likely to be on the board's April 6 agenda.

Paul Morneau asked for an extension to improve the road serving his Mystic Ridge subdivision on South Stanley Hill Road. Board members said if he negotiates a financial guarantee with selectmen, they would give him until Oct. 1. Otherwise, Morneau's March 2005 subdivision permit will expire due to lack of progress.

Morneau said he was delayed for more than three years by litigation and last summer by wet weather.

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