Bath council OKs pot freeze, new planning director

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BATH — Churning its way through a gauntlet of ordinances Wednesday, the City Council unanimously extended a retail marijuana moratorium, passed rules for bed-and-breakfast inns, created new parking, and authorized a contract rezoning.

All the ordinances received unanimous first passage Aug. 1.

City Manager Peter Owen also announced that City Planner Ben Averill has been promoted to the role of director of planning and development. The council will formally approve his appointment next month.

Earlier this year, the council adopted a six-month moratorium on retail marijuana establishments and social clubs that expired Aug. 13.

The state Legislature in May overrode a veto by Gov. Paul’s LePage to enact a bill governing recreational marijuana. As a result, the state has a new law with many changes. City Solicitor Roger Therriault last month said the council needs to understand the law in order to make recommendations about whether and how Bath should allow retail marijuana sales.

Regulatory rules must be written and put before the Legislature, which meets again next January.

The new moratorium runs through next February. If the city in the meantime establishes “satisfactory ordinances and regulations,” the council can end the freeze early. If not, the moratorium can be extended again.

The city will hold a workshop on the work done in Augusta Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. in City Hall.

New planning director

Averill began work last November, having come from an economic development job in Auburn before serving as town planner in Wiscasset. Andrew Deci stepped down from the director of planning and development role last month, and six people applied for his position, Owen said after Wednesday’s meeting.

Averill has “really stepped up in the meantime as far as responsibility, and showed some leadership” following Deci’s departure, Owen explained, praising his knowledge of the Planning Board and Bath.

The transition comes with a reconfiguration within city departments. Averill will assume Deci’s responsibilities except for economic development; the latter role will fall under the umbrella of Owen’s and Assistant City Manager Marc Meyers’ tasks. The city is also creating a marketing and communications specialist position, filling the open staffing position created by Averill’s promotion, Owen said.

Other ordinances

The City Council also amended the definition of a bed and breakfast under its Land Use Code, to allow either the owner or a live-in manager to occupy the residence. Current rules only permit the owner to use the building as a principal place of residence.

Elizabeth Knowlton, who has owned The Inn at Bath on Washington Street since 2004, proposed the change. It had technically been illegal for the owner not to be on site, even if a family emergency required a leave of absence.

In other business, Mark Sewall of Pine Tree Engineering received contract rezoning approval for a vacant lot at 8 State Road, where he plans to erect two structures: a 3,345-square-foot brewery and tasting room, and a 5,358-square-foot building containing both a gym and laundromat.

The project, which netted Planning Board site plan approval July 10, requires contact rezoning to meet setback and yard area requirements to facilitate placement of a parking area and landscaping.

In return, the developer must build a sidewalk along the property to tie in with anticipated future development, put in additional lightingand install a catch basin.

Later in the meeting, the City Council approved new parking spots, prompted by a lack of long-term, four-hour parking for downtown employees, who park in two-hour spots meant ideally for shoppers and visitors.

About 25 new spots – on the east side of Commercial Street north of the Kennebec Tavern and the north side of Summer Street between Front and Commercial streets – are being created.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.