Officials on a small Maine island are working on a temporary halt to any new subdivisions because they are worried the town’s regulations aren’t strong enough to protect the environment.
The Deer Isle Select Board voted last week to have a moratorium drafted, and it’s expected to go before voters in early 2023. The decision comes after a developer proposed a subdivision of a 48–acre parcel on the island in order to create a new campground.
The exact wording of the moratorium is still in flux because the town hasn’t been able to get a lawyer to read it over yet, said James Fisher, the Deer Isle town manager. But it generally would halt new subdivisions for the next six months and give the town time to put in stronger safeguards for the island’s resources.
Like many rural towns in Hancock County, Deer Isle has few zoning ordinances. The sizable campground project seems to have spurred the town into developing the moratorium so it can implement at least a site plan review ordinance, which institutes a formal process to look over new development.
“The concern is there are more [subdivisions] coming, and the town isn’t ready for the scale or density,” Fisher said. “Right now, we have the standard shoreland zoning and a subdivision ordinance, but the feeling of the Select Board is that those tools are not sufficient.”
Addison and Partners, a group of designers and restaurateurs, approached the town in October about building 12 guest cabins, five tent campsites and a bathhouse on the 48-acre property on Fox Hollow Lane. The property currently is home to a farmhouse, which would host an operations center for the campground and supply seasonal staff housing, and a barn that is planned to host food services.
“We think our lodging accommodations as a jumping off point for guests to experience the island — whether that means hiring a kayak for a family outing, enjoying a meal at one of the island’s many restaurants, or walking a trail maintained by Island Heritage Trust,” the developer wrote in its pre-application to the planning board.
The property looks out over Crockett Cove and is believed to have once been a cattle farm.
Increasing the water and septic usage from a single-family home to 17 campsites worried some officials.
“We just want to make sure what goes in there doesn’t have an adverse environmental impact,” Deer Isle select board member Percy “Joe” Brown said Thursday. “It’s going to be quite an operation, as all subdivisions are.”
Peter Perez, another Select Board member, felt that even if a moratorium is enacted it would not apply to this campground because the developers already had paperwork in with the planning board.
“The worst-case scenario is this one gets through, but we stop the rest of them,” he said.
Brown emphasized that this moratorium isn’t specifically targeting Addison and Partners, or trying to stop development in general, but to set better guardrails.
“We’re not trying to prevent anything,” he said.
The moratorium is expected to either go before the voters at a special town meeting early next year or at the annual town meeting in March.