China planners review proposed new solar ordinance

by Mary Grow

CHINA, ME — The three members of the China Planning Board participating in the April 12 meeting unanimously approved a change of ownership for a South China business.

Savage Nutrition is the new name of the former Backroad Nutrition at 341 Route 3. The business sells “Energizing Teas and Meal Replacement Shakes,” and is self-described on Facebook as a smoothie and juice bar.

Owner Suzanna Brennan told planning board members there will be no changes to the site, building or business with the change in ownership. “Same business, same product, same prices, just a new owner,” she said.

Board members were satisfied with the information provided and approved with little discussion. Walter Bennett asked Brennan about business hours: Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., weekends 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., she replied.

The board’s agenda included review of proposed land use ordinance amendments and the proposed new Solar Energy Systems Ordinance, considering comments received at and after the March 22 public hearing on the documents (see The Town Line, March 31, p. 3). Chairman Scott Rollins led only a preliminary discussion, postponing detailed review and decisions until more board members were present.

A main issue in the land use ordinance debate is the limit on lot coverage by impervious surfaces in the shoreland zone. China has had a 15 percent limit that does not include driveway and parking areas; the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) requires counting such non-vegetated areas as impervious.

Many lots around China Lake are so small that buildings on them already cover 15 percent or more of the lot area. Such properties are “grandfathered” under existing ordinances; structures may be maintained, but cannot be expanded.

For residents whose buildings almost reach maximum coverage and who planned to add a shed or deck, adopting the DEP definition would ban such expansions.

Rollins, Bennett and Natale Tripodi all lean toward relaxing the lot coverage limit, changing it from 15 percent to the 20 percent DEP rules allow. Bennett, citing a March 22 proposal by resident Brent Chesley (who also attended the April 12 meeting), suggested 15 percent maximum for structures (fewer buildings would protect views of the lake, he said) plus 5 percent for driveways and other impervious areas.

Outside the shoreland zone, China currently has a 30 percent lot coverage limit. Planning board members were not sure whether DEP has jurisdiction outside shoreland and other protected areas.

Chesley reminded board members that the land use ordinance is not the only water quality protection measure affecting development in China. There are also the state Stormwater Management Law, which applies to any project in the state that disturbs more than an acre of land, and China’s Phosphorus Control Ordinance (Chapter Four of the Land Use Ordinance), which applies in the China Lake and Three Mile Pond watersheds.

During a brief discussion of the proposed solar ordinance, Bennett said board members need more information on effects and impacts of solar developments. They hear only from the developers, he pointed out.

Tripodi cited something he had read about solar arrays consuming too much land. He and Bennett find them unattractive and would like stronger provisions for screening them from view.

Bennett added that a solar development limits other possibilities. He would prefer to have businesses along Route 3 and not solar farms, for example. Board members joked about whether they could ban solar in some areas without invoking the dreaded “z-word” – zoning.

The discussion is to be continued at future meetings, with the hope more members of the public will attend or watch on line and add comments. Bennett suggested seeking approval for a board visit to the solar array on Route 32 North (Vassalboro Road).

The next regular China Planning Board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 26.


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