Bath council to tackle pot freeze, B&B rules, new parking

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BATH — City councilors knew as they wrapped up their busy August meeting that their September slate was already packed.

A smattering of ordinances concerning issues like a retail marijuana moratorium extension, rules for bed-and-breakfast inns, creation of new parking, and a contract rezoning – all of which received unanimous first passage Aug. 1 – are scheduled to go to final votes on Sept. 5.

The City Council earlier this year adopted a six-month moratorium on retail marijuana establishments and social clubs that expires Aug. 13.

The state Legislature in May overrode a veto by Gov. Paul’s LePage, to enact a bill governing recreational marijuana.

“So now we’ve got a whole new law … and there are a lot of changes that they’ve made, that we need to understand,” in order to make recommendations about whether Bath should allow retail marijuana sales, and if so, how to do so, City Solicitor Roger Therriault told the panel Aug. 1.

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

“We’re just simply not where we need to be in order to consider all of this,” Therriault said.

The moratorium would run through next February, but “if we get to the point where we have satisfactory ordinances and regulations in place that we’re happy with, we can bring this to an end,” he added. “If not, we can extend the moratorium again if need be.”

Councilor Terry Nordmann, who early this year had voted against the freeze, concerned it would discourage business, expressed support last week for the moratorium’s re-extension.

“I’m certainly willing to extend this one, because I think that what we need is to have some definite plans as far as language for this before we go any further,” he said.

B&B occupations

The city looks to amend the definition of a bed-and-breakfast inn under its Land Use Code, to allow either the owner or a live-in manager to occupy the residence. Current rules only allow for 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.

After speaking with both her and other bed and breakfast owners, City Planner Ben Averill said, “it was determined that this would assist them in anything from everyday occurrences to dire events. The way our ordinance is written today, it’s technically illegal for the owner … to not be on site,” even if a family emergency required a leave of absence.

The new rules would allow for the owner to put someone else in place as a live-in manager, Averill explained.

Contract rezoning

Mark Sewall of Pine Tree Engineering seeks contract rezoning 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 received 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, according to Averill.

In return, the developer’s conditions of approval include building a sidewalk along the property to tie in with anticipated future development, installing additional lighting along the property’s front, and putting in a catch basin to help manage stormwater.

Downtown parking

A lack of long-term, four-hour parking for downtown employees – who park in two-hour spots meant ideally for shoppers and visitors – prompted city officials to propose new parking spots, according to Ryan Kaake, traffic safety officer with the Bath Police Department.

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 – would be created. The tavern approved the idea, Kaake said.

The four-hour parking spaces will reduce travel lane sizes on both Commercial and Summer streets, but still allow two cars to easily pass one another, Kaake noted. Reduced lane widths will also aid an effort to slow traffic flow on Commercial Street, he added.

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

Elizabeth Knowlton, owner of The Inn at Bath on Washington Street, has proposed a change in city rules governing bed and breakfast operations. The amendment, due to receive final City Council approval next month, would allow either the owner or a live-in manager to occupy the residence.

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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.