Board supports subdivision ordinance amendments

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PARIS — The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted Monday to recommend amendments proposed for the subdivision ordinance.

The ordinance has been a simmering issue since an updated document was passed in 2007. Selectman Raymond Glover said a special committee had come up with seven pages of amendments to the ordinance to fix inconsistencies with state law, and recommended that the board support the changes. He said the amendments will go to a vote in June.

The board also plans to hold a joint hearing with the Planning Board to discuss the amendments.

The subdivision ordinance that passed in 2007 updated a document first put into place in 1976. Supporters of the ordinance said it was  necessary to update the ordinance to bring it into compliance with changes in state law. Critics claimed that the revisions were done without the input of residents. They also said that the ordinance put more restrictions on property owners through measures such as sending appeals to the Superior Court instead of the appeals board, and requiring subdivision roads to be paved.

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The ordinance narrowly passed 487-468.

In January 2008, selectmen voted 3-2 to create an ad hoc committee to review a list of amendments to the ordinance proposed by resident Ron Fitts. The committee collapsed after resident Robert Moorehead filed a lawsuit charging then-Chairman Ernest Fitts III and then-Selectman Glen Young with conflict of interest in their votes to form the committee. Moorehead charged that all three men had interests in real estate development, and that Ernest Fitts had a familial bias because his brother proposed the amendments. Moorehead later requested that the suit be dropped due to changes in the municipal government which addressed most of his complaints.

Some residents later posted their land as private property in protest of the ordinance, and a new ordinance was petitioned in December  2008. This adopted many of the proposed amendments introduced by Fitts, such as consolidating the application process to remove the distinction between a major and minor subdivision, allowing subdivision roads to be paved or unpaved, and allowing appeals to go before the board of appeals.

The document was not supported by the selectmen or Planning Board, who said the new ordinance would be difficult to enforce and could compromise public safety in certain areas. It was adopted in 2009 by a vote 461-441.

The selectmen also created a working group of two selectmen, two Planning Board members and two residents to review possible amendments to whichever ordinance was in place following the 2009 vote. Glover said the recommendations were done by consensus so that all members agreed on the proposals.

mlangeveld@sunjournal.com

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