Cumberland council to consider fireworks ban

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council will discuss a ban on the sale and use of consumer fireworks on Monday, Nov. 28, when councilors hear a report on the issue from the Ordinance Committee.

The council on Monday also forwarded growth and impact fee ordinances to the Planning Board.

A state law that takes effect Jan. 1, 2012, legalizes consumer fireworks, but allows municipalities to enact local restrictions on use and sale.

Portland, Falmouth, Freeport, North Yarmouth, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth have prohibited the sale and use of fireworks, while Gray and Westbrook have allowed it and Cumberland, Yarmouth, Scarborough, Windham and Gorham have decisions pending.

“It’s a difficult (issue),” Town Manager Bill Shane said Monday. “You balance, basically, people’s own rights against what resources a municipality has to deal with the collateral damage that sometimes comes out of these things. Nobody intends to start a fire, but a fire starts. Nobody intends to get burned, but they do get burned.”

Given Cumberland’s proximity in a rural section of Maine, he noted, “I guess we have a little bit more capacity to absorb that type of activity, but the reality is, we have fewer people to deal with the enforcement, or with the actual response to any emergency that might occur from that.”

Ordinance changes

Councilors also unanimously sent proposed growth and impact fee ordinance changes to the Planning Board.

The council voted in July to appoint an ad hoc committee to review and possibly revise the town’s growth management and impact fee ordinances. Shane noted at the time that the growth ordinance limited the number of building permits issued by the town each year to 46.

But the town has never reached that cap, hitting 34 in fiscal 2003, 12 in fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010, and nine in fiscal 2011.

The impact fees, which the town charges new residential properties, could typically run from $3,000 to $10,000, depending on the size of the home being built, Shane said previously.

Each time a new residential property is built in Cumberland, the owner is charged a $100 growth management fee, and then an impact fee of $1.36 per square foot beyond the first 500 square feet.

The ad hoc committee’s recommendations include dropping that fee to $1.13 per square foot, as well as no longer exempting senior housing projects from impact fees; those projects would continue to be exempt from growth permits.

Money the town receives from growth management permits and impact fees goes toward its purchase of the Rines Forest and improvements made to the Twin Brook Recreation Area.

Shane said the town is required every three years to revisit and update the ordinances. He expects the matter to be back before the Town Council in January.

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.