Rumford eyes rules for adult businesses

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RUMFORD – Public hearings were held Tuesday night on a proposed ordinance to regulate sexually oriented businesses and a townwide land use proposal encouraging development in specific parts of town.

A second hearing is set for 6 p.m. April 25 in the Municipal Building Auditorium.

Although some in the small crowd said they want to ban all sexually oriented businesses such as adult book stores and strip clubs, selectmen’s Chairman Jim Thibodeau said law prohibits such action.

They can be regulated, however, Town Manager Steve Eldridge said.

Under the proposal, such establishments must be at least 1,000 feet from schools, day-care centers, churches, parks and recreational facilities, and residences. A 6-foot high fence must be erected around the boundary line of the business.

Other regulations call for a $500 license fee, a criminal background check, and inspections by health, fire, and code enforcement officers.

The ordinance will be acted on at town meeting or at referendum in June.

If the proposed land use ordinance is also passed, sexually oriented business could be permitted on Rumford island, in industrial areas, and in a section of town near the former Puiia’s hardware store. If the land use ordinance is not passed, such businesses would be allowed anywhere in town provided applications meet sexually oriented business ordinance rules.

John Maloney, a planner from the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, has been working with the town’s Land Use Committee for about a year to develop a consistent set of regulations as recommended in the town’s comprehensive plan. Besides designating areas for specific uses, the ordinance would bring land use-related ordinances, such as site plan, subdivision and shore land ordinances, under one document.

It also outlines how appeals can be made and lists necessary fees for reviews.

Among proposed districts are those for residential, commercial, medical, industrial, village – such as Rumford Center and Rumford Point – rural, and Rumford island. In each, specified uses would be allowed.

Bob and Louise Stickney objected to the proposal.

“I feel we have enough ordinances in place now. I think we should take a long, hard look at this,” Bob Stickney said.

Louise Stickney agreed.

“I think the goal is noble, but property already has so many restrictions,” she said.

But businessman and developer Lem Cissel believes zoning is important.

“We need this in this town. Look at it closely, and think about the future,” he said.

Eldridge said zoning gives a town control over its own growth.

“It makes better economic development sense for businesses to know where they can locate. This is not to deter economic development but to encourage it in a smart way,” he said. “We tried to encourage residential development near water and sewer to prevent sprawl. We tried to work the ordinance around what exists currently.”

Thibodeau was concerned that people might be forced off their land.

“You read about other towns where people build $300,000 homes and the farmer ultimately gets kicked off his land,” he said.

Cissel said that wouldn’t happen if there was an agricultural zone.

Other ordinances discussed included changes in the regulations for keeping domestic animals.

Under that proposed change, anyone with five or more dogs would have to obtain a kennel license. The previous number was four for a license. People with four dogs must submit to an inspection by the animal control officer to determine if proper maintenance is available for the dogs. Also, dogs must have required shots before they can be licensed.

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