China residents have seven days to comment on proposed ordinance changes

by Mary Grow

People who did not attend the China Planning Board’s July 26 public hearing on proposed ordinance changes have seven days to submit written comments if they want to, Chairman Frank Soares said.

Soares said board members will consider public comments as they prepare a final draft of the ordinance.  Current plans are that the final draft will be the subject of another public hearing to explain – but not amend – it before it is submitted to voters on Nov. 5.

In addition to board members, the board secretary and Codes Officer Paul Mitnik, 10 people attended the hearing: four selectmen; two newspaper people, representing the Central Maine newspapers and The Town Line; a non-resident needing a community meeting for her graduate work; Harry Fraser, a summer resident primarily interested in ordinance provisions about seasonal conversions; Noah Whitt, a year-round resident concerned about lighted signs; and China Lake Association president and former codes officer Scott Pierz.

The half-hour-long hearing was preceded by Mitnik’s presentation summarizing some of the major proposed changes.  Most involve adopting the state Department of Environmental Protection’s 2015 guidelines, either in place of or in addition to current language.

Pierz commented in detail on some of the proposed changes.  Many he believes will be beneficial, making enforcement easier and not damaging the environment.  In some cases, he pointed out, there appear to be inconsistencies or lack of clarity.

Whitt objects to the proposed provision that would allow digital signs to remain lighted from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., even if business hours are shorter.  He argued that signs should go dark when the business closes for the day, as a courtesy to neighbors.

Under the ordinance, businesses open 24 hours a day would be allowed lighted signs at all times.

Selectman Joann Austin was also concerned about sign requirements.  Fraser supported the state’s standards for converting a property from seasonal to year-round use.  Selectman Ronald Breton, seconded by Pierz, asked planning board members to add amended wording for conditional use criteria, an ordinance section previous planning boards have worked on.

Soares asked those who spoke to submit the gist of their remarks in writing for the board’s review.

The draft amendments are available on the town’s website, and there should be paper copies left over from the hearing.

The next China Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Aug. 9, at the town office.


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