Planners find comments worthy of action

by Mary Grow

As promised, at their Aug. 9 meeting China Planning Board members reviewed in detail written comments on proposed ordinance amendments received after their July 26 public hearing.  They also discussed other amendments that are likely to be presented at a future hearing on their way to a November ballot.

Three residents submitted written material repeating their July testimony, expressing concerns about various proposed ordinance changes and related issues.  The changes the board recommends mostly incorporate revised state shoreland guidelines.      Board members found three comments worthy of action.  They corrected the numbering on a set of articles after a resident pointed out cross-references to non-existent sections; they deleted a reference to 30 days for approval of a sign permit after Codes Officer Paul Mitnik said most sign permits are approved or denied within a week; and they corrected a discrepancy in requirements between discontinued signs and discontinued structures by redefining a sign as not a structure.

If the third change remains, the owner of a discontinued structure that does not meet land use requirements will have up to five years to reuse it or give up; the owner of a discontinued sign will have two years to reuse or remove it.

Otherwise, board members decided their draft is satisfactory.  Board member Milton Dudley said that he did not believe one person’s comments were a valid reason to change state guidelines.

One proposal the board rejected would require lighted signs to be turned off when a business closes for the day.  The draft ordinance would require lighted signs be turned off at 10 p.m.  Mitnik said he did not intend to be on China roads to enforce either deadline, though he would respond to a complaint of an ordinance violation.

A majority of the board approves of “grandfathering” signs that do not meet current or new ordinance requirements, allowing them to stand.  Mitnik said asking business owners to remove all non-conforming signs would be difficult because there are many in town.

In addition to shoreland and related issues covered at the July 26 hearing, board members discussed amended conditional use criteria and endorsed a draft approved by an earlier board.

They discussed what requirements for converting a seasonal residence to year-round are useful in protecting lake water quality.  A legal septic system is essential, they agreed; other requirements, like lot size and setback from the lake, seemed less important.

Mitnik said China’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee and selectmen want fishing docks and perhaps a trail at the causeway at the head of the China Lake, between The Landing restaurant and Church Park.  The current ordinance would not allow them, so Mitnik suggested adding language exempting water-dependent facilities and uses from setback requirements, as allowed by state law.

Planning Board members intend to continue work on draft ordinance revisions at their Aug. 23 meeting.  Board Chairman Frank Soares proposes another public hearing, perhaps in conjunction with the selectmen, at a date not yet set.  He said a final draft needs to be ready by Oct. 19 for inclusion on a Nov. 8 local ballot.


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