MOUNT DESERT — If you’ve been thinking about opening a retail business in the village of Otter Creek, you’re going to need a backup plan.
The only sales activities allowed there are ones that existed when the zoning district lines were drawn in 1978.
Otter Creek resident Mike Olson discovered that recently after he rented a commercial box freezer filled with bags of ice from O’Hara Ice and placed it on the edge of his property at the corner of Route 3 and Cemetery Lane.
He thought that, with both the Otter Creek Market and the convenience store in Seal Harbor closed this season, the hundreds of campers at Blackwoods Campground shouldn’t have to drive 5 miles into Bar Harbor to buy ice. He said he saw an opportunity to provide a service and generate a little extra income.
But someone objected to the sight of the ice machine at the side of the road and complained to Mount Desert’s code enforcement officer (CEO), Kim Keene.
All of Otter Creek is zoned “village residential.” Prohibited in that zone are retail stores of any kind, as well restaurants, hotels and motels. The Otter Creek Market, Otter Creek Inn and Burning Tree restaurant are grandfathered.
Among the activities allowed in the village residential zone, according to the land use ordinance, are “seasonal produce sales (including firewood).”
Mr. Olson has had a permit to sell firewood at the side of the road since 2003. Ms. Keene said she contacted the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) for an opinion on whether the seasonal sale of ice might be allowed under the seasonal produce and firewood provision of the ordinance. But both she and the MMA concluded that Mr. Olson’s ice machine wasn’t permitted, so she had to tell him to remove it.
Ms. Keene said she will be working with the planning board this fall on several possible changes to the land use ordinance, and she intends to ask the board to propose a “village commercial” zoning district in Otter Creek. Retail stores – and roadside ice sales – are permitted in village commercial zones.
Ms. Keene said the town also might want to expand the village commercial zone in Somesville. Currently, non-grandfathered retail activities in that village are allowed only along Route 102 north of the Route 198 intersection.
The town’s voters would have the final say on any zoning district changes.
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