China’s comprehensive planning committee to consider revising land use ordinance

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members have a request from the Comprehensive Planning Committee to consider revising China’s land use ordinance to clarify requirements for a commercial use permit. They started discussion at their July 23 meeting, but came nowhere near a decision, partly because the issues are complicated and partly because only three of the five members were present.

Three main issues were presented, the ordinance sections that require an applicant to show that:

  • “The proposed use will not have a significant detrimental effect on the use and peaceful enjoyment of abutting property as a result of noise, vibrations, fumes, odor, dust, glare or other cause;
  • “Adequate provision has been made to handle storm water runoff or other drainage problems on the site;
  • “The proposed water supply will meet the demands of the proposed use or for fire protection purposes.”

The Comprehensive Planning Committee would like ways to measure compliance – for example, when do noise and the other things listed interfere with neighbors’ enjoyment, what runoff control provisions are adequate and how much water is needed for fire protection?

Board members and Codes Officer Bill Butler agreed on the second issue: state and town site protection regulations adequately control run-off.

They also agreed that determining detrimental effects is complicated, with the possible exception of controlling lighting by requiring downward-facing shielded bulbs.

Butler talked about ways to measure individual volunteers’ sensitivity to odors and send out teams to evaluate odor complaints. There are a variety of noise standards, state and local, he said, but to use them the applicant – or some other person or entity – would first need to do a study to establish the background noise level.

Butler and board members said there are many exemptions to standards in state laws and regulations, especially for farming and construction.

Some of the questions about fire protection and water supply should be referred to the state fire marshal, Butler said. He pointed out that “the demands of the proposed use” could be highly variable, giving as an example a water bottling operation like Poland Spring’s.

Development can affect supply, he added. He cited an area where the groundwater level was measured before a proposed subdivision. When trees were cut, the level dropped; when roofs and driveways created impervious surfaces, groundwater rose to a level higher than before the subdivision.

Further discussion was postponed to the board’s Aug. 6 meeting. Butler said the board hopes to have recommended changes on the Nov. 5 local ballot.

There was no action on the pending application for a medical marijuana facility on Route 3 in South China (see The Town Line, July 18). Butler said Clifford Glinko would probably present a revised application in September.

Board member Ralph Howe reported on his independent research on one of the questions raised about Glinko’s application, applicability of regulations separating marijuana facilities from schools. He said a Department of Education staffer told him Grace Academy across Route 3 is a school. The required 500-foot separation is between property lines, not between buildings, he said.


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