China commercial solar ordinance ready for review

by Mary Grow

At their Jan. 23 meeting, China Planning Board members discussed one permit application and forwarded one draft ordinance to the select board.

They decided the long-discussed commercial solar ordinance, planned to be Chapter Eight in the town’s Land Development Code, is ready for select board members’ review. The ordinance was on the agenda for the Jan. 29 select board meeting.

Board chairman Toni Wall had worked on amendments to China’s Land Use Ordinance, which is Chapter Two of the Land Development Code; this document is also on the Jan. 29 select board agenda.

Wall said a major piece remains to be added, to incorporate relevant parts of the 2022 state law requiring municipalities to provide for additional housing. The major changes involve relaxing restrictions on the number of dwelling units per lot. China officials have asked the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments for help adding appropriate language.

The law says towns must incorporate the new provisions by July 1, 2024. China’s version needs to be ready for voters’ action at the June 11 annual town business meeting.

The permit application is from Carrol White, to convert the former Silver Lake Grange Hall, on Main Street, in China Village, to four two-bedroom apartments.

White said after he gets the permitting process started, village resident Daniel Coleman intends to buy the building and do the conversion.

Back in 1992, White said, he applied for and received the necessary variance from ordinance requirements, specifically the setback from the side lot line and the square footage needed for multiple dwelling units. However, the variance was not registered with the state Registry of Deeds within the required 90 days.

When the omission was discovered in 1999, the variance was duly notarized and registered, but there seems to be agreement that a seven-year delay made it invalid. White therefore needs a new one; variances are granted by the town board of appeals.

In addition, planning board members voted that White’s application was incomplete, because he provided too few details on some aspects of the plan.

Wall said she and codes officer Nicholas French will work with White to add information to the application. She suggested the board review it and hold a public hearing to get neighbors’ input, probably at the Feb. 13 planning board meeting. Then White can again ask the board of appeals for a variance from setback and lot size requirements.


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