PARIS— The majority of selectmen voiced their support for making changes to the town’s governing document in order to amend controversial proposed zoning changes.

In an informal straw poll at a workshop Monday night, Selectmen Ryan Lorrain, Robert Wessels and Sam Eliot said the Land Use Ordinance’s stipulation that lot sizes in rural areas increase from one acre to two acres was a concern to many residents.

Selectman Gerry Kilgore did not attend the workshop and could not be reached for comment Monday night.

The proposed ordinance would divide the town into five districts: Route 26 Corridor, General Growth, Rural, Paris Hill Historic and South Paris Main Street. Each has different restrictions on the types of buildings, businesses and property lot requirements.

The proposed lot sizes range from 10,000 to 20,000 square feet in most parts of town, and increase to 80,000 square feet in rural areas, a requirement stipulated for in the town Comprehensive Plan.

Towns are not required to enact a zoning ordinance, but if they do, the ordinance must follow their comprehensive plan.

The minimum lot sizes have proven controversial. While some landowners are opposed to the town imposing restrictions on development, others view the requirement as essential to maintaining the town’s rural, rustic nature.

Three years ago, a Land Use Ordinance Committee was formed to draft a proposal of the ordinance. After completing its work in early 2013, selectmen passed a draft of the ordinance in April.

The draft was revised by the town attorney and an adviser from the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, who submitted it to selectmen in October.

In February, Paris held a 2½-hour public hearing, moderated by selectmen and former members of the Land Use Committee, which revealed a mixed response to the proposed rules.

Selectmen asked residents in March for additional input, and received two comments expressing concern that the new minimum lot size was too large.

Eliot also derided the language in the document, saying it was cumbersome and ambiguous to understand.

“I don’t want the people of the town to have to go to a lawyer to build a chicken coup,” Eliot said.

Chairman Robert Kirchherr was in favor of tightening language in the document, but recommended forgoing changing the comprehensive plan.

“If voters don’t want to adopt it – fine, let’s go back and change it,” Kirchherr said.

According to Town Manager Amy Bernard, the process for amending the Comprehensive Plan could take a year.

In previous town meetings, Bernard told selectmen they would first need to form an advisory committee and then hold a public hearing on the proposed changes.

After considering comments from the public, the committee would formalize a final draft, hold another public hearing, and finally pass the measure to voters.

According to Kirchherr, selectmen will be asked to take official action at their next meeting May 12.


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