OTISFIELD – The Planning Board is proposing a change to a current building ordinance that would free home builders from having to bury utility lines except within 25 feet of a structure, a change that could reduce some of the costs of building a home in the lakeshore town.

Residents will vote on the proposed change at the upcoming town meeting in March.

The current ordinance requires home builders to have utility lines installed underground from utility poles to a home. The proposed change would remove the underground requirement, with the exception of the last pole prior to a home, which can be no closer than 25 feet from the home. Utility lines will have to be installed underground from that last pole to the home.

Rick Micklon, chairman of the Planning Board, said Tuesday that board members have been fielding concerns that the current ordinance could be cost prohibitive to people wanting to build homes in Otisfield.

“People didn’t feel it was fair,” he said prior to a public hearing Tuesday evening to discuss the proposed change with residents. “It would cost them more they said it dissuaded them from building in Otisfield.”

Micklon said safety was also an issue for the proposed wording change. Homeowners who are walking around their yards with erected ladders could knock loose an above-ground power line, possibly causing a fire or serious injury or death.

“That does happen in the state of Maine,” he said. “The safety factor was a major thing.”

There was little public comment at the hearing regarding the proposed change. Resident Jim Bishop asked why homeowners would be required to bury utility lines within 25 feet of a residence rather than perhaps 50 feet.

Micklon, who is employed in the construction industry, said homeowners typically have yards ranging from 25 to 30 feet. “The pole is probably fairly well clear at that stage,” he said.

He also said residents have expressed opinions that the current ordinance could place a financial burden on prospective home builders. “People told us they wouldn’t have voted for this ordinance if they understood the implications,” he said.

The board also is proposing other changes to current ordinances, including adding a clear definition of “abutter,” requiring that replacement heating oil tanks be self-contained in addition to new ones, and allowing homeowners who live outside of shoreland zoning to have driveways more than 500 feet long as long as the driveway serves two lots or less.

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