HANCOCK — It was a full house at the Hancock town office Sept. 15 when 58 residents gathered for a special town meeting to vote on whether to change the town’s Environmental Control Ordinance (ECO).
The ordinance, which was enacted in 1994, includes a footnote that prohibits fast-food restaurants, shopping malls and commercial, outdoor recreation activities along Route 1, which is otherwise zoned for commercial use.
The town’s Planning Board recommended to the Select Board that the ECO be amended so that commercial, outdoor recreation activities be stricken from that footnote and thus permitted along Route 1.
After nearly an hour of back-and-forth debate, the amendment failed, with 47 residents voting to reject the amendment and 11 voting in favor of it. The five members of the Select Board were among the 11 voters in favor of the amendment.
Planning Board Chairwoman Kate Small explained that the proposed amendment was brought before the town because the Planning Board had received a proposal from Brewster Harding to develop an 18-hole mini golf course and ice cream stand along Route 1 near Shirley’s Yarns, Crafts & Gifts.
The Planning Board was forced to deny the proposal due to the town’s ECO, Small said.
Harding was present at the Sept. 15 meeting and shared that he lives in Lamoine in the summer and Portland the rest of the year. He owns a gift shop in Bar Harbor and two in Portland and has been in the tourism business for many years.
Some audience members questioned whether a variance could be issued for this one particular project rather than amending the entire ordinance. Another audience member read a portion of the ordinance out loud, which states that the town’s Appeals Board cannot grant a variance if the proposal is for a function specifically prohibited by the ordinance.
Residents who spoke against changing the ordinance mentioned safety concerns due to added traffic on already busy Route 1 and the need to maintain the quality of life and quiet character of the road and the town.
“Keeping Route 1 quiet is a thing of the past,” Small said, adding that it could still be maintained as “quaint” with the protections the ordinance has in place, while also allowing development and income opportunities for applicants and tax revenue for the town.
She highlighted the changing nature of the road by mentioning the 120-home senior housing development planned just up Route 1 from Harding’s proposed mini golf course.
The project, Coastal Estates, has been proposed by SFS Development LLC, which includes Randy Sinclair of Sinclair Development Corp. and Steve Fernald of Statewide Property Management, and is being represented by Steve Salsbury of Herrick & Salsbury.
The developers have not submitted an application yet, Small confirmed to The American, but the proposal was presented to the Planning Board at a May 12 meeting to give the board an introduction and overview of the project.
The project has been granted the necessary stormwater permitting from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for the driveway that is under construction, Salsbury said.