STRONG — Members of the town Planning Board met with selectmen Wednesday night to discuss safety, property values, retail marijuana establishments and ordinances.

The town has few ordinances and no zoning, beyond state-mandated shoreland and floodplain protection regulations. On Wednesday, the town’s five selectmen took their concerns to the Planning Board to discuss if new ordinances might resolve problems — or possibly make them worse.

“We have had some discussions about (property) maintenance and making some of the properties more pleasing to the eye,” Selectman Dick Worthley told the board.

Selectman Rod Spiller said he has been contacted by five residents concerned about various issues, including safety, property maintenance and junk cars on Main Street. He also asked if an ordinance could limit where people listed on the state’s sex offender registry could live.

The board explained the town has no commercial, manufacturing, industrial or residential zoning.

Joyce Murphy of the Planning Board suggested new ordinances targeting the negative aspects of the town might backfire if voters see them as interfering with individual rights. She suggested encouraging economic development, such as the Lignetics Inc. wood pellet plant across the street from the Town Office.

“Look at how many times the mill has turned over, and look at what they’re doing now,” she said. “How often have we tooted their horn?”

Planning Board members also explained to selectmen that ordinances are not simple solutions for specific problems. The complaints are often personal.

“Someone is always going to complain,” said Goyo Stinchfield of the Planning Board.

The Planning Board relies on Code Enforcement Officer Tom Marcotte to enforce town regulations and advise the board of changes at the state level. The town’s ordinances also regulate street numbering and standards, road postings, subdivisions, site plans, solid waste and recycling. Selectmen already are authorized to take that action against unlicensed junkyards, Marcotte said.

“The state police and the county sheriff are the only ones that can enforce the junkyard ordinance,” he said.

Concerning property maintenance issues, selectmen suggested following the example set by the town to Phillips, which recently approved a property maintenance ordinance.

Marcotte said Phillips and Kingfield both have municipal zoning, while Strong does not. He suggested new town ordinances had to be legally enforceable.

The town also would need legal advice, especially if a case went to court. Although it is unlikely the town would be sued, selectmen should prepare for legal expenses. Currently, the town does not have a lawyer.

Jeff Murphy, chairman of the Planning Board, also expressed frustration that none of the five selectmen had asked about his letter to them in June and a second letter to them in October. Those letters detailed state and local regulations and requirements for retail marijuana establishments.

Murphy said the Planning Board has worked diligently to stay on top of changing state laws.

“If you want people to vote (on an ordinance), you’ll have to bring it to this town,” he said. “The letter I sent put that to you, and I never heard a word from you.”

Murphy said if selectmen want to approve, or opt in, to allow retail marijuana establishments, voters would have to approve such an ordinance at a town meeting. Until an ordinance is approved, such retail establishments are not allowed.


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