PROSPECT, Maine — This weekend, residents who come out to the annual town meeting will decide if they’re in favor of adopting a new ordinance that would give local officials the chance to weigh in on commercial and industrial projects proposed for their community.
The town planning board has been working on the draft site plan review ordinance since last November. Residents narrowly passed a six-month development moratorium in February, just as developer Arthur House was promoting his plan to build a major heat-treated wood chip operation in an old gravel pit off Route 1A.
Prospect currently has no planning or zoning ordinances that provide for a municipal review of such projects. According to the draft ordinance, its purposes are:
— To promote the health, welfare and safety of the residents.
— To balance the rights of landowners to use their land while minimizing adverse effects on adjacent properties.
— To protect the town’s natural resources.
— To provide a level of municipal review for commercial and industrial projects that could potentially affect the community.
— To reduce the off-site effects of development.
— To promote a “fair, thorough and expedient review process” for proposed projects.
Detached single and two-family houses would not be subject to the ordinance.
Efforts Thursday to contact House by email and telephone were unsuccessful. However, before the special vote in February, he sent Prospect residents a letter asking them to think twice about voting for the moratorium on industrial development.
“A moratorium could force me to bring my business elsewhere,” House said in the letter.
In December, he told Prospect residents and officials that he hoped to start chipping wood in January for export to European and overseas markets, and that he wanted to have the processing plant built by late 2015 or early 2016. House said he aimed to employ 150 people in Prospect by 2016.
But in the letter he sent to residents in February, the timeline of his project had changed. He said in the letter that he expected to create as many as 50 jobs in Prospect by 2017.
Prospect’s annual town meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 11, at the Prospect Fire Department.
Town Clerk Jill Orestis said Thursday that she wasn’t sure if there would be a good turnout this year. Just over 700 people live in the Waldo County town.
“People say that they want to come, but it’s hit or miss every year,” she said.