Rumford land-use committee is back


RUMFORD – Selectmen unanimously voted Thursday night to re-establish the Land-Use Ordinance Committee to again begin work on a zoning ordinance.

The action came following a vote last week defeating a proposal to place such an ordinance before voters in June. At the April 25 meeting, selectmen rejected the Land-Use Committee’s proposal 3-2, with Selectmen Jolene Lovejoy and Mark Belanger voting in the minority. Belanger had served on the committee.

Most on the board Thursday said last week’s vote was not the end of the matter.

“We want to pursue this. There is no indication this is a dead issue,” said board Chairman Jim Thibodeau.

Because of town charter restrictions that call for action on such an ordinance only during the month of April by selectmen, voters won’t have a chance to vote on another proposal until June 2007.

However, selectmen believe work should begin soon after the June 5 town meeting by members of the existing Land-Use Ordinance Committee, along with the addition of at least four new members.

Thibodeau suggested a committee of nine, along with Town Manager Steve Eldridge, code enforcement officer Richard Kent and Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments planner John Maloney.

Lem Cissel, a local businessman, made a plea for continuing the development of a zoning ordinance.

“Before any town can move forward into today’s society, the town needs to adopt some form of land-use ordinance. To ignore this fact is simply sticking your head in the sand,” he said. “We want planned, quality development to increase our tax base in order to pay the rising expenses of maintaining and sustaining a beautiful town and retain a quality of life.”

Eldridge also said that most businesses and industries want to know what parts of town they can locate in.

The board also suggested that public informational sessions for describing the various components of a proposed ordinance begin early next year. The Land-Use Ordinance Committee generally meets on the second Tuesday of each month at the Municipal Building and is open to the public.

Resident Bob Stickney, who had spoken against the proposed ordinance last week, volunteered to serve on the re-established committee, as did Cissel.

Resident Rob Cameron, who had opposed the proposed ordinance last week, believes an entirely new committee should be organized because the current members may feel a sense of “ownership.”

Eldridge said advertisements will appear in the local newspaper seeking volunteers. The board will then select members in June.

He said the proposed ordinance largely followed existing land uses.

“This is a document that has to be worked with. It’s a living document that will change,” he said.

Also, most of the proposed ordinance followed recommendations written in the town’s Comprehensive Plan that was passed by residents in 1998, said Belanger.

“No matter what we do,” said Selectman Jim Rinaldo, “someone will disagree.”