China select board adopts temporary amnesty on all unpermitted property changes

by Mary Grow

At their Sept. 26 meeting, China select board members unanimously adopted a temporary amnesty program for residents, permanent and seasonal, who made changes on their property without getting a required permit.

China’s land use ordinances list numerous actions for which a permit is required, from the codes officer, the planning board or the plumbing inspector. In the last few years, with China frequently changing codes officers and with the pandemic limiting face-to-face communication with town officials, getting a correct permit in a timely fashion has sometimes been difficult.

Information compiled by Dwaine Drummond, temporary assistant to new codes officer Nicholas French, and town manager Rebecca Hapgood, shows “hundreds” of instances of non-compliance with permit requirements.

Drummond explained in his written proposal, titled “Self-reporting and compliance with the Town of China Land Use Ordinance,” that some violators did not know they needed a permit; a minority ignored regulations; and in some cases, violations resulted from “miscommunication or misinterpretation of codes and construction techniques.”

Select board members agreed that people who report themselves before Nov. 30 for not getting a required permit will be eligible to apply and, if their project meets requirements, to get a permit for the regular permit fee. Normally, an after-the-fact permit costs substantially more.

If whatever was done without a permit is not legal under China’s ordinances, the property-owner will be required to undo it to the extent necessary to make it legal or to make other reparation, for example by replanting an area in the shoreland from which trees were illegally removed.

Land use ordinance requirements apply to buildings of all sorts; additions and changes to existing buildings; uses and changes of use of land and buildings; signs; tree-cutting and almost any other change in the natural environment anyone could envision. The complete ordinance is on the town website,, and town office staff are available to answer questions during office hours.

On a related matter, select board members decided that if Drummond and French recommend action on potentially dangerous buildings, they will hold local hearings, rather than immediately referring any cases to court. As part of the town’s responsibility for safety, select board members are empowered to investigate abandoned or neglected buildings and, if they find a building poses a threat to health or safety, to order the owner to repair or demolish it.

In other business Sept. 26, select board members reviewed records from the town’s new speed monitoring sign, after its September placements on Lakeview Drive and Neck Road.

On Lakeview Drive in a 45-mile zone, between 2 and 5 a.m. none of 26 drivers obeyed the limit. Eighteen were doing at least 55 miles an hour, and eight were doing 65 or more.

Overall, in a recorded week more than half the drivers, 930 out of 1777, obeyed the limit as they approached the flashing speed limit sign; 99 were recorded as going 65 or faster.

Even on the narrow, winding Neck Road (also with a 45-mile-an-hour limit), the sign recorded five drivers who exceeded 65 miles an hour. Overall, compliance was high on Neck Road: 4,717 drivers out of a total of 5,383 obeyed the limit as they approached the sign, and the average speed was below the limit, rather than above as on Lakeview Drive.

Results of the survey are being shared with the Kennebec County deputy sheriffs who patrol China roads, Hapgood said.

Select board members appointed three residents to the Regional School Unit (RSU) #18 Cost Share Committee: board chairman Ronald Breton, board candidate Brent Chesley and RSU representative Dawn Castner.

Board members voted to advertise and sell by sealed bid an unneeded storage building currently on the public works lot. Bought for a dollar from RSU #18 some years ago, it has not been used.

Board member Janet Preston asked if it would meet the need for additional records storage that board members and Municipal Building Committee members have discussed for months. Hapgood’s dismayed expression was a sufficient answer.

Following up on a Sept. 12 discussion (see The Town Line, Sept. 15, p. 2), Hapgood said consultant Lynn Gilley Martin, of Fire Safety Compliance Associates, had arranged meetings with members of China’s volunteer fire departments and China Rescue, as they work on compliance with state standards.

Ronald Breton

The select board meeting was preceded by two public hearings. One was on the Nov. 8 local ballot, which includes local elections for select board, planning board, budget committee and RSU director, plus eight local referendum questions. The other was on state amendments to the General Assistance Ordinance and to the amounts of aid in the ordinance’s appendices.

The two audience members present had no comments. No one participated on line. After Breton closed the hearings, the ballot was approved, and later board members approved the ordinance amendments.

During the select board members’ comments at the end of the meeting, Breton objected strongly to the way a few people, whom he did not name, are using the Friends of China website. He accused them of spreading misinformation and of making allegations about town government that he labeled slander.

He had seen none of the complainers at any meeting or hearing, Breton said. He challenged them to come and see how China’s government actually works.

The Friends of China website was set up to be helpful, and there’s no place for such misuse of an information medium in this town, he said. “This is a good town.”

Because of the Monday, Oct. 10, Indigenous People’s Day holiday, the next regular China select board meeting will be Tuesday evening, Oct. 11.


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