BETHEL — After hearing a report this week on the number of businesses that are in violation of the sign ordinance and plans for enforcement, Board of Selectmen Chairman Don Bennett said he expected a petition to do away with the code.

Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Warden brought photos and information on 10 businesses and organizations that are not in compliance to see whether selectmen wanted him to enforce the ordinance.

Violations included the size or number of signs, the distance placed from the road and the amount of time banners had been left in place.

Warden estimated about 50 percent of Bethel businesses are at least technically in violation of the ordinance, and he expects to bring more violations to the board for action at upcoming meetings.

The board voted 3-2 for Warden to pursue enforcement against the 10 businesses, with Bennett and Selectman Andy Whitney opposed.

The vote is similar to one at last month’s meeting, when the board decided to resume enforcement of the ordinance after a temporary suspension while amendments were approved at this year’s town meeting.

“Sounds like in just a couple more meetings we can offend most of the town,” Bennett said Monday.

Bennett said that while he wants to keep the ordinance, there needs to be a way to allow some flexibility in certain circumstances.

He used a sign for the Sunday River Brewing Co. on Route 2, one of the 10 businesses cited, as an example.

Warden said a new, larger sign was recently put up under the amended sign ordinance, which now allows 80-square-foot signs on roads with speed limits over 45 mph. But the sign was not the required 50 feet from the edge of the pavement, he said.

Bennett said he went to look at the sign and found it was 25½ feet from the pavement. He noted that placing it in the correct spot would align it with utility poles, an existing directional sign and, in the future, possibly another directional sign. Eastbound motorists would see “virtually nothing” of the Brewing Co. sign until they had gone by it, he said.

“We need to have a little flexibility,” he said. “The brew pub is an example as to why this code has to be challenged and changed constantly,” he said.

Bennett cited banners displayed at the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum on Main Street as another exception. Warden said the banners are in violation for number and size.

Bennett said the banners are nice-looking, and “we’re the only ones who care” that they are in violation.

Whitney said removing them would leave a bare pole that would look worse. He said he would like to see the ordinance written in a way that is easier for businesses to understand and for Warden to enforce. He said he had not heard “a single complaint” about any of the signs cited by Warden.

Selectman Pat Carter said she did not think the ordinance was business-friendly.

Selectman Peter Southam said that easing up on enforcement for others would be saying to those in compliance, “Thanks for doing the right thing, but you really didn’t have to.”

Paul LeGault, owner of Mayville’s Gourmet in a Pinch, said he supported enforcement. His business was among those cited for violations, for a trailer with a banner affixed to it. Warden said parked trailers on the business’s property with lettering on the sides is allowed, but the sign must be part of the trailer.

LeGault apologized and said he would comply and remove the trailer.

He went on to say the town had approved the ordinance, “and your job is to enforce the sign ordinance.” After hearing Bennett’s arguments, he said he felt like he wanted to go “up and down Mayville and put signs on every utility pole,” referencing another business’s violation presented by Warden.

LeGault urged the board to have businesses unhappy with enforcement to use the Appeals Board process to make their case.

Bennett said he was seeking middle ground to preserve the ordinance.

“I believe that if this is what we’re going to do, there’s probably going to be something on the ballot in November in some way, shape or form to absolutely toss it out,” he said.

BETHEL — Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Warden has presented selectmen with a report on what he said was a violation of the sewer code by the Crossroads restaurant on Mayville Road.

He said an inspection by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection last November of the wastewater treatment plant cited too much grease leaving the plant and going toward the Androscoggin River.

Warden said after the grease sources were tracked down, he contacted several restaurants, and all took steps to address the issue except Crossroads. He said owner Frank DelDuca asked for time to implement a chemical treatment for the grease and it was granted, with the plan to wait until spring to reassess the situation.

Warden said checks of sewer lines in July, after they were cleaned in June by the treatment plant, showed that from the restaurant to the main sewer line and into the main line itself the situation “was significantly worse, with grease accumulations for 1,200 feet running to a lift station.” He said he and treatment plant staff had been in touch with DelDuca multiple times during the period about fixing the problem. Warden said he was requiring him to arrange for cleaning of the pipes, and DelDuca said he scheduled that for Aug. 16.

Warden recommended if it did not happen then, that the town start fining DelDuca under town ordinance provisions.

Also recommended was the installation of an external grease interceptor on the restaurant property to prevent further accumulations.

The board voted to approve Warden’s enforcement recommendation.

 


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