Special town meeting warrant set for Aug. 28
FARMINGTON - Selectmen approved an eight-article warrant Tuesday night for a special town meeting to be held 7 p.m. on Aug. 28 at the Farmington Community Center.
Voters will be asked to make two zoning ordinance changes, one in an area of West Farmington and another on the corner of High and Franklin Avenue. A third zoning change in the Cascade Leisure Park area of mobile homes, proposed by Community Concepts, Inc., was tabled after the park's owner wanted more time to discuss the dimensions of the area planned for a zoning change from village residential to residential. The zoning map amendment proposed would allow placement of mobile homes on adjacent property. The matter was remanded back to to zoning board for further review.
Those attending a public hearing held on June 26 were all in support of the proposed zoning changes in West Farmington to designate areas currently with small businesses and shops as mixed residential and light commercial, as opposed to the current residential-only designation. Changing the zoning map, say supporters, will allow businesses to expand from their current, grandfathered footprint and it would better represent the existing use of the area.
The proposal for a similar zoning change at the corner of High Street and Franklin Avenue was met with a few residents objecting, while the majority said they were in favor of it at a public hearing held Tuesday night,
Ron's Market owners, Jon and Lois Bubier, asked for the zoning change from the current village residential to village business, because they, too, want to expand the convenience store's operation on the corner. Currently hampered by the zoning designation that prevents expansion, the Bubiers said in the next five years they would like to expand the building, improve parking and allow for truck deliveries to move off Franklin Avenue and instead go around the back of the store. Franklin Avenue has a mix of residential homes and businesses such as the market, FL Butler Oil company and the police station. The fairgrounds is directly across High Street and a few doors north, the Webber Energy Fuels office is on High Street.
Initially, the area bordered by Farmington Falls Road, Franklin Avenue and High Street to include two mobile home parks were proposed as a village business district, but the zoning board at its July 11 meeting shrunk the size of the proposed zoning change to encompass a two-acre area that the Bubiers currently own. Approved for change to village business by the zoning board is lot 72 along Lamkin Lane, the access road to the mobile home park the Bubiers own; lot 90 the current store and 91 and 92, one of which is where a two-story house sits next door to the market.
Jon Bubier said he intends to move the house to another location on High Street so his store, delivery truck path and parking lot plan can proceed.
"I was not interested in the whole block that fired up the neighborhood," Bubier said of the complaints lodged at the zoning board meeting. "It's just to allow for a local business to grow."
High Street homeowner, Suzanne Wertz said she objected to a process that allows for a change to the zoning map in order to accommodate only one business. Instead, she said Tuesday night, the issue should be presented to the board of appeals as a non-conforming, use variance application.
"It's forever; it allows any business surrounded by residential to get a zoning change," she said and added, "It's giving him his very own zoning district. It's a large chunk of land, too big for a convenience store." Two more residents said they had concerns over the possibility of increased traffic and the neighborhood has "some lovely old houses."
Four more neighbors spoke in support of the zoning change.
Franklin Avenue homeowner, Bud Martin said he was "delighted with the plan," the Bubiers have for the store's future. "It will improve the area," and he added, "I don't see a downside."
Maple Avenue resident Dennis O'Neil said the neighborhood is already a mixed zone and "is never going to be a residential area. This will address the issue of why the area should be zoned." He added "traffic is a fact of life" and the Bubier's plan is "a welcome addition to the neighborhood."
Jon Bubier responded to Wertz's suggestion of an alternate procedure to address the matter as "not currently available." He noted the store's been there for 60 years and he is taking the proper steps which include a more appropriate zoning designation.
"I'm not going to build a Wal-Mart there. I've been a good steward of the property," Bubier said. He also noted that any plans for expansion still needs approval from the planning board.
Wertz asked selectmen to table the issue until it can be studied further. Selectmen unanimously sent the issue for voters to decide at the Aug. 28 town meeting.
Voters at that meeting will also be asked to approve updated changes to the sewer use ordinance regarding specifications for manholes, and reduce the zoning board number from seven to five members. Fewer members required allows for a smaller quorum for meetings and votes. Currently, there are two full members and two alternate seats vacant.
Also on the warrant are two articles which would allow residents to borrow up to $15,000 through the Efficiency Maine Trust for home energy efficiency improvements. To qualify for the loan program, the town needs to enact an Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) ordinance. As noted in the statement of fact accompanying the article, the loan program comes at "no cost, liability, or staffing burden" to the town. Also needed is voter approval of a contract between the town and the PACE program for administering the funding to Farmington homeowners.
The eighth article is intended to cover the costs for construction of the police station garage should the bid amounts, due Aug. 26, exceed the town's $25,000 plus what is considered to be a reasonable amount resident Richard Bjorn has offered to donate to get the job completed. Funding for construction of the new, three-bay garage next to the police station was approved by voters in $25,000 annual increments over a three-year period at the annual town meeting in March. Proposed is to appropriate $25,000 from the town's undesignated fund balance to complete the garage construction, in case bids run over expectations.