LAMOINE — The question of whether to rezone a residential property was a hot topic for voters gathered at the Lamoine Consolidated School last Wednesday night for the annual Town Meeting.
The meeting was recessed March 17 due to previous gathering limits set by Governor Janet Mills amid the pandemic.
Lengthy debate ensued — and resulted in secret ballot voting — regarding an article on the warrant to amend the town’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance so that a property owned by Glenn and Donna Crawford would change from the limited residential zone to the commercial fisheries and maritime activities zone. The article made its way to the warrant via a citizens’ petition, with signatures garnered from property abutters, Glenn Crawford said.
Voters were evenly split, with 36 voting to approve the article and 36 voting to reject it. In the case of a tie, the vote goes to reject the article, moderator Harvey Kelley explained. At the start of the meeting, the longtime moderator shared that this Town Meeting would be his last one in that role.
His last meeting was a lively one, with several comments made from both sides of the issue.
Crawford went before voters to explain why he and his family were seeking the change.
The property was “historically used for trade on the ocean,” he said. A previous owner operated the property commercially, vacating it before its district was changed to limited residential. The town’s current district maps were drawn in the early 1990s, said Deputy Town Clerk Stu Marckoon.
The debate brought up the issue of spot zoning, a process where parcels of land are rezoned outside of the classification of surrounding properties. Crawford said that much of Lamoine has already participated in spot zoning, pointing to commercial properties such as the Lamoine Marketplace, which are located throughout the rural town.
Crawford said rezoning would allow his son and other commercial fishermen granted permission by the Crawfords to access the waterfront and “continue the ability of fishermen in Lamoine.”
Crawford said he was not requesting the change to get a tax break. He also said that he is not permitted to operate certain elements of the property, such as a bait shed and workshop, as it is currently zoned, but that he is being taxed for them.
He voiced concern that working waterfronts were “disappearing.”
Planning Board Chairman John Holt said that he would vote against the article, due in part to its timing.
Holt said there was “no public scope in place that would require a district change,” and it may be appropriate to revisit the request in the future if the Crawfords develop a more specific plan for use of the property.
He also noted that the Crawfords may fish and use a pier on the property as it is currently zoned.
In response to remarks about the Crawfords’ future plans for the property, one resident said, “I’d like to say, ‘none of your business,’” which received applause from many in attendance.
Resident Kathryn Gaianguest said the time to bring up the request was when the town was working on its 2020 Comprehensive Plan, the development of which happened over “three intensive years.”
“We had at least three different opportunities for the public to give input,” she said, which included online and written surveys and public meetings.
In other business, voters approved the town’s $3.2 million school budget, with $2.8 million to be funded by property taxpayers. Voters also approved the town’s municipal budget of $1,063,671, with $229,900 raised by property taxpayers.
Voters also approved amendments to the town’s Building and Land Use Ordinance and its Site Plan Review Ordinance.
One amendment aimed to clarify the definition used in the Site Plan Review Ordinance regarding measuring a structure’s height.
The amendment was influenced in part by a years-long debate over whether a home built in Marlboro in 2019 followed the ordinance’s definition of height.
The ordinance initially defined building height as “The vertical distance between the highest point of the structure and the average final grade around the foundation, or the average grade of the original ground adjoining the building, whichever is greater.”
Voters approved an amendment, which reads, “The vertical distance between the highest point of the structure and the average final grade of the ground adjacent to the foundation or the vertical distance between the highest point of the structure and the average grade of the original (pre-construction) ground adjacent to the foundation, whichever distance is greater.”
Additionally, Carol King Duffy was named the town’s Citizen of the Year. Duffy spent her 43-year career as a teacher at the Lamoine Consolidated School.
“I’ve spent two-thirds of my life here,” she said, partly through tears, as she accepted the surprise honor.