PARIS — A set of amendments to the town’s subdivision ordinance cuts some sections and restores certain language, but retains most of the changes offered in a petitioned document approved last year.
Raymond Glover, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the amendments will go to referendum in June. The proposed changes are being suggested by an ad hoc committee, which included two Planning Board members, two residents, and Glover and another selectman.
The current ordinance, which was drafted by residents with the intent of improving relations between landowners and the town and making the document more competitive with other communities, passed 461-441 last year. It replaced an ordinance which passed 487-468 in 2007. The petitioned ordinance did not win the support of the selectmen or Planning Board, and selectmen formed the ad hoc committee to amend whichever ordinance was in place following the 2009 vote.
Some of the changes restore language from the original ordinance or cut language added in the current ordinance. The committee restored a phrase, cut from the petitioned document, stating that one of the purposes of the ordinance is to “minimize the potential negative impacts from new subdivisions on neighboring properties and on the municipality.” The committee also cut language added by petitioners saying that the ordinance’s standards shall only apply within the boundaries of the proposed subdivision. When the petitioned document first appeared, it was suggested that the latter wording was inappropriate because subdivisions could impact the area outside of the development.
Most of the current ordinance’s major changes to the 2007 document would remain in effect if the amendments are approved. These include allowing subdivisions to meet gravel road standards rather than paved roads standards; allowing appeals to go before the Board of Appeals rather than the Superior Court; removing specific fire protection requirements and allowing the subdivision to meet the specifications of the fire chief; having one application process instead of separate ones for major and minor subdivisions; and allowing the Planning Board to grant waivers.
The committee has recommended that one section on cluster housing that was included in the petitioned ordinance be removed. The purpose of the section aims to “allow for innovative concepts of housing development where maximum variations of design may be allowed, provided that the net residential density shall be no greater than is permitted under traditional single-family development.”
The section says cluster development can help minimize sprawl and the conversion of open space to residential use. The committee says that cluster developments are already covered under the town’s residential open space ordinance, which was adopted in 1991.
The current document allows subdivisions with 15 or more lots to have street connections with existing public streets designed by a professional engineer, a change from the 2007 requirement that subdivisions have at least two street connections with existing public streets. The committee is recommending that two street connections be required for subdivisions with 15 more more lots that are on roads other than Routes 26,117, 119, or High Street.
The 2007 ordinance requires Planning Board permission to modify a plan if a grade is to be changed by more than 1 percent; this was increased to three percent by the petitioned ordinance. The committee is recommending that permission be obtained for changes of grade by more than three percent that are greater than 50 feet in length.
The committee has also added definitions for farmland, tracts or parcels of land, public ways, and private ways.
The 2007 ordinance was the subject of ongoing controversy after it passed. In 2008, a resident filed a court appeal against two selectmen, charging conflict of interest in their decision to approve an ad hoc committee to review proposed changes to the ordinance. Some residents later marked their land as private property in protest of the ordinance, and the replacement document was petitioned in December 2008.
The six-member ad hoc committee was formed to fix inconsistencies with state law and make other changes. The amendments were arrived at by consensus vote, with all members agreeing to the proposed change. The selectmen unanimously recommended that they pass last month.
“It was very productive for most of those meetings, and we did get a lot done,” committee member Rick McAlister said last week.