WILTON — The Wilton Planning Board held a public hearing Thursday, May 27, on four amendments to existing ordinances that will be voted on at Wilton’s town meeting. The annual town meeting will take place at Kineowatha Park at 6 p.m. June 14.

At the hearing 13 members of the public were present on Zoom and in person, in addition to the Planning Board, Code Enforcement Officer Charlie Lavin and Town Manager Rhonda Irish.

Three of the four amendments on the town warrant impacted Wilton’s Zoning Ordinance. Articles 4 and 5 regard shoreland zoning and regulations on piers, marinas, docks, and wharfs. These articles impacted ongoing plans of the owners of 10 Rowle Street, who are trying to start a marina business on their Wilson Lake-waterfront property.

Article 4 adds a definition for a “Marina” as “a business establishment having frontage on navigable water and, as its principle use, providing for hire offshore moorings or docking facilities for boats, and which may also provide accessory services such as boat and related sales, boat repair and construction, indoor and outdoor storage of boats and marine equipment, bait and tackle shops and marine fuel service facilities.”

The article also prohibits marinas from existing “within 200 feet of a developed swim area” and “a boat launching facility” under table A4, Outdoor Resource Base Uses.

Article 5 amends the “Performance Standards” article to rule “no more than one pier, dock, wharf, or similar structure extending or located below the normal high-water line of a water body or within a wetland is allowed on a single lot: except that when a single lot contains at least twice the minimum shore frontage…”

Code Enforcement Officer Charles Lavin said Article 5 “brings the town ordinance into compliance with the State Model Shoreland Ordinance.”

During the public hearing portion of the evening, multiple public members made comments, including James Butler, co-owner of 10 Rowle Street.

Public member Holly Windle raised concerns about a marina with larger boats being near the boat launch because of the boat launch’s popularity among children, summer camps, kayakers and other small boats.

“I feel that 200 feet is really only a bare minimum for practical and safety reasons,” Windle said.

Butler issued “prepared” comments. He spoke of what has happened surrounding the proposed marina, which has been reported on by this publication: Butler submitted a site plan review application for Wilson Lake Marina LLP to the Planning Board for review on March 18. The marina would allow for boat slip rentals as an alternative to using the town’s public boat launch nearby at Stinchcomb Lane. The board tabled reviewing the application and motioned for a six-month moratorium on commercial development around Wilson Lake, which the Select Board denied. In April, the board moved forward with amendments to the town’s Zoning Ordinance that would affect the marina’s ability to exist.

“The proposed amendments appear to be specifically targeted towards our application, both with regard to the retroactivity and the exclusion areas that are created,” Butler said. “If the rationale for the proposed amendment is a safety concern, then wouldn’t docking areas provided by the town at the boat launch also be a safety concern?

“The safety and most ecological-friendly location for a marina is within close proximity to a boat launch,” he continued.

“The town’s stated goal in the Comprehensive Plan related to recreation is as follows: ‘to promote and protect the availability of outdoor recreational opportunities for all Maine citizens including access to surface waters,”‘ he stated. “These restrictions burden substantially all Maine citizens in favor of the few individuals who own property on Wilson Lake.”

Butler also said Article 5 is restrictive and could have “unintended consequences” against lot owners “having their docks and floats” at their homes because “very few lots have 400 feet of shore frontage.”

“I wonder if the community would be better served by the withdrawal of these articles from the annual town meeting so a more developed and tailored amendment could be developed and put forth to the townspeople to vote on,” Butler said.

He ended his statement by raising concerns that he and his team never had the opportunity to speak to the planning board, explain his plans and answer the “good questions” that were raised. He said he wasn’t given “due process.”

“We would be happy to present to you and address every concern that you have,” Butler finished. “Throwing together an ordinance like this isn’t what planning boards should be doing. The direction that the board has gone on this, the only term I can think of is rogue. You’re not following the responsibilities that a planning board should be doing to represent the public.”

In response, Chairperson Mike Leclair disagreed that “we’ve gone rogue.”

“We noticed that we lacked any type of direction and there is a lot of interest in this project. Our place is not to judge. You either fit the criteria or you don’t. What we think doesn’t matter. We took that time to put together our ordinance that we thought made sense for Wilton,” LeClair said.

Parker also commented on Butler’s comments that “this was hastily thrown together.”

“What became very apparent is that we realized our ordinances were not comprehensive and appropriate and were spread all over the place and fragmented,” Parker said. “We were left with trying to define as best as possible in this period of time. A lot of the concerns would not have come about if we had the time to sit down and do the special moratorium and look at the whole lake issue…in a comprehensive fashion.”

In response, Butler said “there’s a proper process and a proper channel. Making these changes and trying to go retroactively on a pending application, there’s so many things wrong with that ethically and morally. This wasn’t on your guys’ radar prior to this application.

“In treating a potential business owner like this is not the correct way to conduct business and doesn’t look great for the town of Wilton for any other new businesses trying to come into town,” Butler said.

At one point, board member Parker and Butler shared a contentious exchange when Lavin answered Butler’s question about Wilton’s control over the waters and shoreland. When Parker added an aside during Lavin’s answer, Butler asked “are you going to keep interrupting [Lavin]?” while raising his voice.

“You’re here as a guest, remember that,” Parker said.

In other business, the Planning Board presented Article 6 on the town warrant. The article is a “rewrite of the Marijuana Ordinance” approved at the 2020 town meeting.

The rewrite eliminates the limit on how many marijuana businesses can be in Wilton, “removes the license fees” which will be moved to a “separate Schedule of Fees,” adds the “standards for denial, suspension or revocation of a license” which are missing from the current ordinance, “separates medical and adult [usage] requirements,” and prohibits marijuana retail businesses from existing 500 feet within a school, religious institution, licensed day care or library.

“[This rewrite] allows for more competition in the market place, loosens some rules. We revised some rules. I don’t think there’s any areas where the rules are actually tightened. It puts it more in line with the state and tries to make it very easy to interpret,” said Parker. He added that it also clarified some areas for less “confusion.”

Business owner John Black raised concerns about hours-of-operations requirements because “several of us operate before 9 a.m. I open up at 8.” He also had concerns about the fire safety concerns for “all cultivation facilities.”

“A lot of [medical-marijuana cultivator] caregivers grow at home, grow in a building on their property. I grow offsite. Are these other caregivers that are growing in town, growing in their basement or their garage, are they going to be required to have Knox Boxes, fire suppression and yearly inspection of their facilities as well?”

The board did not respond to Black’s questions.

Article 3 amends the Sign Ordinance so it is compliant with state Department of Transportation requirements. Requirements on the size limitations of signs are altered. The changes on the ordinance also eliminate specific limitations on off-premise political signs, but add limitations to all off-premise “temporary signs” such as political signs, stating they can only be posted for 12 weeks per calendar year and no more than 6 weeks per the first and second six months of the calendar year.

No comments were made on Article 3.

The proposed amendments and other articles on the town warrant can be found at the Town of Wilton website, https://wiltonmaine.org/.  The town warrant will be voted on at the 2021 town meeting on June 14 at 6 p.m. at Kineowatha Park.

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