PARIS — In a straw poll at a workshop Monday night, three out of four selectmen agreed to a previously proposed compromise on the controversial rural residential lot sizes.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Ryan Lorrain, Vice Chairman Robert Wessels and Selectman Janet Jamison informally agreed they could present to voters an amendment of a one-acre rural lot size with 150 feet of roadside frontage for the town’s Comprehensive Plan. Selectman Sam Elliot did not agree with his colleagues.

The ongoing issue cropped up roughly a year ago when selectmen wanted to present to voters the proposed land use ordinance and realized they could not since the 2007 comprehensive plan and the ordinance must align. The plan states rural residential lot sizes can be no smaller than two acres with 200 feet of roadside frontage.

During the sometimes contentious discussion, Town Manager Amy Bernard reminded selectmen what the townspeople wanted during two previous hearings on the matter. In February 2014, roughly 55 people showed up, with 35 saying they did not support the larger two-acre, 200-foot frontage lot size. Some residents worried about stifling development and the town telling people what they can and can’t do with their land.

At the most recent hearing in the beginning of November 2014, virtually all of the 20 people in attendance said they wanted something more than the Comprehensive Plan Amendment Committee’s recommendation of keeping the one-half acre and 100 feet of roadside frontage, which is the state standard.

They agreed to support one acre with 150 feet of frontage, wanting to keep Paris’ rural character. Some worried about subdivisions with small lots and well contamination. Bernard previously shared information about well contamination at a subdivision in the town of Turner in 2006.


On Monday, Elliot was in agreement with the committee’s recommendation of keeping the smaller state standards for the rural parts of Paris.

“These issues of wells and septic issues aren’t an issue. We don’t have examples in town of contaminated wells — it doesn’t happen,” he said. The town has gone by the state standard for years, she said. “It has not caused us a problem. We don’t have dinky lots springing up all over the place.”

Jamison backed the residents from the most recent November hearing, some of whom live in the rural part of town.

“The idea of having little choppy lots all over the place, I don’t think it’s a good idea for the future,” she said.

Bernard reiterated her point about acting on the townspeople’s wishes.

“If we’re here to listen to the people and the will of the people, why do we listen to one side and not the other?” she asked.


Lorrain, who previously voted against the one-acre compromise at the selectmen’s Nov. 24, 2014, meeting, which resulted in a stalemate and brought the issue to the workshop, said he was against the larger, two-acre requirement and thought the selectmen needed to present the one-acre compromise to voters.

“This could be labeled as zoning, and I don’t know if people will be in favor … I don’t think it will come down to the size of the piece of land at that point. It kind of is what it is,” he said, adding it’s up to the voters, not selectmen, to decide if they want to change the comprehensive plan it approved in the first place.

Wessels asked Bernard to put the topic on the agenda for Monday’s selectmen meeting.

She agreed.

If the board moves forward with its recommendation to amend the Comprehensive Plan, a hearing will be held in April before it’s placed on the warrant at town meeting in May.

If voters approve the amendment, selectmen can bring the land use ordinance to voters in November. If the lot size warrant is defeated, then it’s back to the drawing board.

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