CANTON — Selectmen wasted little time Tuesday evening in granting variances to setbacks for a proposed $350,000 downtown revitalization project by local businessman and Selectman Malcolm Ray, who was absent.

Ray wants to construct three buildings on nonconforming lots between Whitney Brook and Main Street (Route 140) in a general development area that has a 25-foot setback from the brook. Ray has proposed improving and building atop old foundations already in place.

A third building would be erected where Administrator Scotty Kilbreth’s father’s building was located. Ray wants to use it for an ice cream shop. The other buildings would have small businesses in them.

“He’s not building some tar-paper shacks,” Kilbreth said. “He’s building some very nice buildings.”

Two weeks ago, the Planning Board denied approving the building permit for the project, because it didn’t meet setback requirements. Kilbreth said Tuesday night that the Planning Board liked the project, but had to follow town law in denying the permit.

Because Canton doesn’t have a Board of Appeals, selectmen handle that municipal function. Additionally, selectmen have the authority to issue variances.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Donny Hutchins said that at 16 Main St., Ray will retain the previous building’s 36- by 64-foot foundation and build a new floor over the top of that floor. He said the building doesn’t meet the zero to 25-foot setback from Whitney Brook or the 8-foot setback from the existing building at 12 Main St.

Additionally, the proposed new building at 10 Main St. will be a 42-by-32-foot L-shape design.

“That’s where the barbershop and Pete Jasper’s grocery store was,” Hutchins said. “It doesn’t meet the setbacks from Whitney Brook and 12 Main St.”

Reading from Canton’s commercial ordinance, Kilbreth said that under Section 6, the buildings must be located harmoniously with the existing terrain and the existing buildings in the vicinity, which have a visual relationship to the proposed structures, with attention paid to both the location and height.

“He’s putting back buildings that were there before,” he said.

“I’d be more worried about this if he was encroaching on somebody else’s property, but he’s just got setbacks off the brook and setbacks off the road on his own property,” Hutchins said.

“He could probably make that one continuous lot if he had to,” Kilbreth said. “The proposed buildings are very familiar to what was there and what is there now, with the exception of that one shop he’s adding between the two buildings.”

“We should go ahead and sign off on it so we can send it back to the Planning Board and they can approve the permit,” Keene said when asked what the board wanted to do with the application.

Keene then motioned to approve variances to setbacks on Ray’s building permit from Whitney Brook and also from the backside of the other building. It was approved 3-0.

Keene next motioned to approve the variance for the two-year rebuild limit on the existing foundation for the building that was burned. Kilbreth identified the structure as the former pickling building and the Jasper barbershop area. That, too, was unanimously approved.

Kilbreth said Ray’s proposed rebuild of a retaining wall between one building and Whitney Brook has nothing to do with the town, so he would have to seek a permit-by-rule from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

“Anytime you have to remove vegetation, that’s when you’ve got to get the DEP involved,” Kilbreth said.

He said the new buildings would be tied into the town’s sewer and water lines.

In other municipal business, selectmen were going to approve several different bids from contractor Bruce A. Manzer Paving of Anson for paving to re-establish different grades at the Town Office and Fire Station.

However, Keene said that for anything costing $1,000 or more, three bids must be sought. So the board asked Kilbreth to put the projects out to bid.

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