ELLSWORTH — Several Branch Lake residents complained at a March 4 Planning Board hearing about a new state law that will restrict the use of their property to protect wading bird habitats.
The state is mandating that Ellsworth expand its resource protection zone, effective July 1.
At issue for many is how the state determined the area to be protected. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife took aerial photos of wetlands to make the determination.
One resident said the raising and lowering of the dam affects the water on his property, which is an old meadow.
“The only reason it’s considered wetland now is because it’s flooded all the time,” he said.
City officials were empathetic to the complaints.
“It’s taking people’s rights away, in a certain sense, to protect birds,” said City Planner Michele Gagnon. “We understand that.”
Jef Fitzgerald, deputy planner, said residents with questions or concerns should contact him. Fitzgerald also suggested calling the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Inland Fisheries to have a state representative visit the site in question.
Fitzgerald noted that the resource protection zone description has changed in favor of landowners. Building is possible now where it wasn’t before without a hearing before the Board of Appeals and meeting hardship requirements.
The setback requirements would change as well in the expanded resource protection zone from 75 feet to 250 feet.
Fitzgerald said the proposed changes do inhibit future housing development in those areas.
The change affects 130 lots.
The City Council and the Planning Board intend to hold a workshop on Wednesday, March 25, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the proposed changes.
There will be at least one more public hearing on the proposal as the council must vote to enact the ordinance changes.
For more details pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.