Brunswick council approves zoning changes prompted by Miller Point project

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday unanimously decided to bring zoning ordinances in line with state guidelines and lift a 90-day moratorium on filling and earth moving in the town’s protected districts.

The changes are the result of a dispute over a coastal stabilization project at Miller Point.

In March, neighbors complained that clear-cutting for a shoreline stabilization project was occurring without a local permit. After investigating, Town Attorney Stephen Langsdorf found that although a local review was not required under the local ordinance, Brunswick’s regulations were out of compliance with state law.

Since then, town planning staff have been working to fill that hole and bring the town back into compliance. The council also established an emergency moratorium on earth-moving work within the natural resource protection zone.

None of the neighbors who brought the Miller Point case forward spoke at the meeting, during which Town Planner Jared Woolston presented his department’s final recommendation to the council.

Under the new guidelines, filling and earth moving in the town’s natural resource protection zone would require written approval from the code enforcement officer.

However, the CEO could only permit up to 10 cubic yards of filling and earth moving for working occurring within 75 feet of the streams; moderate to high-value wetlands; highly unstable and unstable bluffs that have been mapped by Maine Geological Survey; 100-year floodplains; river and coastal land subject to severe erosion, and areas greater than 2 acres of steep slopes or 2 acres of wetlands.

Above that threshold, the work would have to go through development review. Staff could review and approve earth moving up to 100 cubic yards; anything greater would go before the Planning Board.

Councilors thanked Woolston for his extensive work on the zoning update.

Councilor Dan Harris got right to the heart of the issue, asking Woolston and Town Manager John Eldridge if, under the new rules, neighbors would be notified of the type of work “that led us to this in the first place.”

“People within 200 feet would,” Eldridge replied.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

A roughly 625-foot swath that was clear cut for an erosion stabilization project on Miller Point upset many neighbors and residents in March, kick-starting a legal process that showed deficiencies in town ordinances.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.