PARIS — The minister of the Grace Baptist Church agreed Tuesday to improve the appearance of a used double-wide trailer recently added to the church grounds near the bottom of Paris Hill.

Pastor Rick Jeselskis signed a letter drafted at the Planning Board meeting agreeing to install new siding and skirting to block the lower frame and wheel assembly, power wash the structure, and plant evergreen trees and flowers for use as a buffer. Three members of the board approved the letter and voted to uphold the original approval of the church’s application, while one member abstained on both votes. The chairman was absent.

Jeselskis said Wednesday that the church anticipates the trailer will only be on the property for two years and be used for Sunday school classes. He said the church will try to establish a more permanent structure or relocate in the future.

“We’re running out of room,” Jeselskis said. “The church is growing too big. We’ve gone from 18 [members] to 130 in two-and-a-half years.”

The Planning Board approved the church’s application to put the 28- by 58-foot trailer in its parking lot on July 27. Jeselskis said he had not received any direct complaints about the addition. However, resident Robert Jewell expressed concern about the trailer at Monday’s selectmen’s meeting.

“I’m not so sure there’s a whole lot that can be done at this point, but I’m pretty disappointed,” Jewell said. “It’s the gateway to Paris Hill. It’s a beautiful area, probably one of the nicest neighborhoods in all of Oxford County, and what’s there in my opinion certainly isn’t keeping with the neighborhood.”

Jewell said at the Planning Board meeting that his parents live next door to the church.

Janet Brogan, president of the Paris Hill Historical Society, also worried that the trailer addition could be a burden to the national historic district atop the hill. She said the trailer also raised concerns over traffic, cars parked on the road, drainage issues, and the aesthetics of the area.

“What is spoken of as temporary often becomes very permanent,” she said. “What is said to be a two-year plan often becomes a 10-year plan.”

The church is at 398 Paris Hill Road, near the southern border of the Paris Hill Historic District as delineated by the National Register of Historic Places. It includes several 18th and 19th century homes, including the birthplace of former Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and the original Oxford County government buildings.

The comprehensive plan, which recommends guidelines for development in town but does not enforce any rules, suggests that any development in and around the historic district should be regulated to “maintain current land use and structural characteristics.”

Robert Kirchherr, chairman of the Planning Board, formerly said that the comprehensive plan mentions a buffer zone around the district where such recommendations apply but does not give measurements as to how far it extends.

Jewell said he feels the town’s site plan review ordinance has certain unclear areas detrimental to the town, and suggested that the town consider zoning.

Assessor Gerry Samson said the ordinance allows the Planning Board to review business applications to ensure it meets criteria related to aspects such as parking spaces, signage and noise levels.

Samson said the town currently does not have zoning regulations aside from state-regulated shoreland zoning. If zoning were established, it would put more rules in place to determine the types of development which could take place in different areas of the town.

“Zoning is usually not very popular,” Samson said. “The fact that we don’t have it tells me that it probably hasn’t been popular enough to pass.”

Planning Board member Franca Ainsworth said the board has been looking at the site plan review ordinance to determine which areas need to be updated, but no action has been taken and the study has been hindered when members are absent.

“People have other things that they have been doing so it’s been kind of hard to get us all together to look at it,” she said.

Selectwoman Jean Smart said some loopholes in the current documents could work to the disadvantage of the town and potentially allow unsafe projects to proceed.

“Personally I would support a rigorous look at that, and I personally would support looking at the idea of zoning in this town,” Smart said. “I think at some point we need to do that.”

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