Paris rejects subdivision moratorium

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PARIS – A proposal to ban all new subdivision applications for six months was rejected Monday after a long debate. The vote was 163-100.

So many people turned out the meeting was moved from the town office at Market Square to the fire station on Western Avenue.

The purpose for the moratorium was to give officials time to update the subdivision ordinance. A good number of people questioned whether the moratorium was necessary to update the law, and worried that it would hurt local businesses and the economy.

“Our economy in this area, it’s residential development,” said Troy Ripley, a local contractor. He named several of the manufacturing housing companies in the region. “Anything that might hinder that delicate little rain forest is irresponsible,” he said.

Realtor Denise Brown questioned the timing of the moratorium. “You’re taking the bread and butter out of mouths during prime time. You should consider doing it off-season.”

Oxford County Commissioner Jeff Fagan of Paris said, “I look at a six-month moratorium as a significant restriction on the rights of the people. … Putting the laws on hold is a shirking of their responsibility.”

Town Manager Sharon Jackson said after the meeting that the people had their say, and even without halting subdivisions, she would work with the Planning Board and code enforcement officer to update the ordinance.

But she defended the moratorium earlier in the meeting. Standing in front of the large crowd, she said, “We do not have an ordinance that is compliant (with state subdivision law). It’s full of holes. It would not stand up in the court of law because it is so inconsistent.”

She said without a moratorium, the Planning Board would be forced to continue reviewing subdivision applications with a faulty ordinance, which could expose the town to lawsuits or allow problematic subdivisions to be approved.

One Planning Board member said it would be hard to update the moratorium while continuing with the other duties and paperwork.

Since last April, 62 lots have been approved.

Todd Truman, who owns Turn Key Homes of Maine, argued, “The town should have been proactive and adopted these rules as they came to us.” He was referring to the additional state rules that have been created since the town’s ordinance was passed.

In the past three decades, Paris’ subdivision ordinance has only been amended twice, officials said.

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