Following opposition from the Planning Board, the York Board of Selectmen last week voted not to move forward a proposed change to the town’s shoreland zoning ordinance.
Selectmen considered this and seven other proposals for the November ballot during a public hearing last Monday. The other proposed amendments — including proposed changes to the Route 1 commercial building design standards, short term residential rentals, and the harbor ordinance (to regulate house boats) — were moved on to a second public hearing.
The proposed change to the shoreland zoning ordinance would repeal the waterfowl and wading bird habitat designation from the Shoreland Overlay District. While much of shoreland zoning is governed by state law, this particular provision is not.
Planning Board Chair Amy Phalon said the board was previously tasked with updating the shoreland protection zoning ordinance and has already undertaken part of that work, which resulted in a ballot measure last November. The Planning Board, she said, was waiting to get some additional data before completing the work, probably in time for a November 2018 ballot. The shoreland bird habitat is scheduled to be reviewed as part of that second round of work.
The proposed change “plucks one small provision from the town’s shoreland ordinance,” she said, recommending that the Planning Board “continue our work so we may deliver a well-crafted ordinance.”
“The biggest issue the Planning Board has here is that we are in the process of making the changes,” Phalon said, adding that while the waterfowl and wading bird habitat designation is no longer a mandatory provision required by the state, it is still recommended that the town include this habitat protection as part of its comprehensive plan.
Phalon also pointed out that the Planning Board has not heard that this is an issue from developers or applicants, whom they hear from regularly. “We do not have a whole bunch of landowners saying they can’t build on their property,” she said. “That’s just not happening.”
The Planning Board, Phalon said, voted 5-0 in opposition of the proposal.
Selectman Mike Estes, who spearheaded the proposal, argued that the ordinance is not mandated by the state and is not necessary for the town to have. It is within selectmen’s purview to put warrant articles before voters for approval.
“My major reason for supporting it is, as you know, the Board of Selectmen have been in trying to sell properties to put them back on the tax rolls and perhaps make them more of a viable property. My understanding is one of the pieces of property we’re trying to sell could be affected by this ordinance,” Estes said. “For that reason, to maximize the amount of dollars that we would give back to taxpayers … with all the ordinances that we have in the community when the state says you don’t need one, I don’t see any reason why we do.”
Estes made a motion to send the proposed change to the shoreland zoning ordinance to a second public hearing. The Board of Selectmen denied that motion, 4-1, with Estes the only supporter.
Selectmen Robert Palmer and Dawn Sevigny Watson reiterated that the Planning Board is in the process of reviewing the ordinance and gathering new data.
“I feel comfortable with that process. I think we should allow the process to go forward through the Planning Board and respect the fact that they feel strongly that they want to weigh in on this issue,” Palmer said.
Sevigny Watson said moving the proposal forward would have been “premature.”
“I think we have to respect the system that we have in place,” she said. “They’ve been doing their due diligence and I just don’t think it’s in our purview to curtail that and not allow them to finish the job. I just think we need to let the process finish and let them come back to us once they’ve fully vetted it with proper data.”