Topsham OKs funds for waterfront park designs

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TOPSHAM — A special Town Meeting on Wednesday approved spending $26,000 on conceptual designs for a Lower Village Waterfront Park.

During the half-hour meeting at Mt. Ararat High School, voters also favored a $10,000 Community Development Block Grant to study an expansion of bus service in the area, an ordinance amending the sign section of the Zoning Code, and the amendment of zoning language for Topsham Fairground operations.

Topsham recently used a $20,000 grant from the Maine State Planning Office to hire consultants to gather public input on the waterfront park question. The study also investigated what would make sense for the property eyed for waterfront access: the area of Green Street, near the old fire station and the Androscoggin River.

Money for the conceptual designs will come from a reserve account. A public meeting on a draft waterfront access study report was held Nov. 21, and a final plan is expected this month.

The bus service study will, in part, look into linking bus services in Brunswick and Bath. It will also determine the feasibility of extending Brunswick Explorer bus service into parts of Topsham.

The amendment Zoning Code will provide standards for the installation of signs in new zoning districts. An amended sign ordinance, currently in the works, could be ready by the May 2012 Town Meeting.

“The sign ordinance today, it’s old, and it doesn’t care for a lot of the new zones that have popped up in town,” Planning Board member Stephen Mathieu said. “So we’re looking at sizes, descriptions, where they can go, where they can’t go. … It’s going to be a very comprehensive amendment.”

For lots in zones created by a 2008 or 2009 amendment to the sign chapter – which lack a corresponding amendment to the tables of permitted signs and maximum sign sizes to reflect the new zone – the provisions in tables that applied to the lot immediately before the zone creation will remain in effect until those tables have been amended to apply to the new zone.

The Fairground operations changes will simplify the permit process for activities outside Topsham Fair week.

Applicants would have to continue to go to the Board of Selectmen for initial permits. But with the change, permits would be available from the code enforcement officer for substantially the same activities in subsequent years.

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.