Public invited to discuss Harpswell zoning changes

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HARPSWELL — After having a “fruitful” meeting with property owners who would be affected by proposed zoning changes, the Shoreland Zoning Task Force will hold its first public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, at the town’s Planning Board meeting.

Town Planner Carol Eyerman on Wednesday said the committee supports about 90 percent of the proposed shoreland zoning changes so far, but there are still a few issues that need to be worked out.

Those issues include a proposal to change a portion of Mitchell Field from a residential zone to a resource protection zone – a measure to better protect the town’s marine resources.

Before the meeting with property owners on Monday, Town Administrator Kristi Eiane expressed concern about how the change would affect future upgrades on a road in the zone that goes to the pier and marine business district. This concern was echoed by Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Elinor Multer and Selectman Jim Henderson during the meeting.

Eyerman said the Shoreland Zoning Task Force will discuss these concerns at the public hearing with the Planning Board, but no written changes can be made until afterwards, according to state law.

Eyerman said the proposed changes to Shoreland Zoning, which will see zoning shifts for several areas to better reflect state law and promote the town’s marine resources, may go to a vote at the March 9, 2013, Town Meeting.

“If we get through the second public hearing unscathed (in January),” Eyermen said, “or if the committee feels they’re close enough to something voters will support, (it will become an agenda item.)”

Otherwise, Eyermen said, enough disagreement could mean the vote might have to wait until the 2014 Town Meeting. But that’s only if the town authorizes the Shoreland Zoning Task Force to continue its work. Eyermen said the committee is scheduled to dissolve after the Town Meeting.

Henderson said some property owners brought up other concerns Monday night, but he described the meeting as “fruitful.”

Mary Ann Nahf, chairwoman of the task force, Wednesday said the property owners who attended Monday’s meeting were mostly lobstermen who raised concerns the committee will look into at their next meeting in January.

Nahf said some of the concerns revolve around how some areas may convert from commercial fishing to residential zones, and how that might affect business.

“We are going to be reconsidering some of the changes a little bit and there were some points we hadn’t thought about,” Nahf said. Any changes made, she said, will be presented at the  public hearing to be scheduled in late January.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.