DURHAM — Town Planner George Thebarge recommended Tuesday night that the Select Board reevaluate resource protection zoning.

In his presentation, Thebarge expressed concerns the town’s resource protection zoning, which is stricter than state standards, places unfair restrictions on landowners.

In 2002, Durham and other towns designated areas of land as resource protection zones in response to rapid development. However, the expanded zoning was based on inaccurate data, leading the town to over restrict land use, Thebarge said.

The board was surprised when Thebarge displayed a map of Durham’s resource protection zones compared to what it would look like if just the state-required zoning criteria were applied. The town’s resource protection zones were noticeably larger.

While he did not recommend reducing the amount of land under resource protection to state minimum restrictions, Thebarge said the current restrictions were creating unnecessary difficulties for landowners and should be reassessed using modern floodplain and mapping information.

While Durham’s overall resource protection land would be reduced under this recommendation, additional sections could be designated as resource protection land during the reassessment if they meet state criteria.

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Proposed zoning changes could be put before residents next year.

Additionally, the board also discussed potential revisions to road standards, including which ones would be eligible for public maintenance.

No motions were made on either matter.

In other news, Fire and Rescue Chief Rob Tripp, who was appointed in September, said many former members of the department have expressed interest in rejoining. The department recently created a new policy which requires the department to treat former members who were absent for 90 days or more as new personnel.

He also detailed the effects of Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on emergency medical service personnel.

In September, the department had 22 members assigned to the ambulance, 16 of whom were vaccinated. Tripp said the department lost five members due to the vaccine mandate, and one additional person chose to get vaccinated, leaving a total of 17 people to run the ambulance.

“It does leave us short in those times of multiple calls (and) in those times that people just aren’t responding,” Tripp said.

It was also announced that the Town Office hours will change beginning Dec. 1. It will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday.


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