residents submitted a petition to the town to force a vote on the matter.
The town office received the petition Monday, Aug. 7. The petition needs at least 116 signatures of registered voters – 10 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.
Ten residents circulated the petitions, including Selectman Amy Leshure and Damariscotta Planning Board member Shari Sage and alternate Jenny Begin. Rosa Ergas, Lisa Katz, Andrea Keushguerian, Karen Kleinkopf, Amy Lalime, Kimberly Sampson, and Pennington Way also circulated the petitions.
The petition calls for a temporary ban on new retail buildings of larger than 2,500 square feet and on any new construction, expansion, or use that requires approval under town ordinances.
“The town of Damariscotta is suddenly under threat of increased development pressure from large-scale retail development,” the petition reads. “This development pressure was unanticipated and has not been adequately provided for in the town’s current land use ordinance.
“Continued large-scale retail development could pose serious threats to the public health, safety, and welfare of the residents of Damariscotta through the overdevelopment of parts of town with such businesses without adequate provisions for issues of safety, sewage, water, roads, and land use compatibility and visual access to view corridors.”
The moratorium would give the town at least 180 days to “develop and implement the necessary amendments to zoning and land use ordinances and regulations to accommodate these development pressures,” according to the petition.
According to the petition, the moratorium would retroactively go into effect on June 7, and extend through Dec. 4.
In response to the increased interest in commercial development over the past few months, the selectmen held a workshop June 7 to discuss how best to approach the topic. During their next meeting, on June 14, the board voted to form an advisory committee to develop an amendment to the land use ordinance integrating the concept of form-based codes.
The selectmen have tasked the committee with producing a draft document within the next few months, which will then go to the public for discussion before a final version is created and sent to a townwide vote.
News of a Portland developer’s proposal for an 11-acre property along Main Street, however, led to inquiries about whether the town should enact a moratorium on any new commercial development until the committee completes its work.
When the topic was discussed during the Aug. 1 selectmen’s meeting, Selectmen Mark Hagar, Robin Mayer, and Ronn Orenstein spoke against the idea of a moratorium, while Leshure was in favor.
As the 180 days draw to a close, if the town finds that the issue necessitating the moratorium still exists and that reasonable progress is being made to alleviate the problem, the moratorium could be extended to June 1, 2018.
The petition was submitted hours before a Damariscotta Planning Board meeting, where the board heard a proposal from Damariscotta Main Street LLC for the 11-acre property at 435 Main St., between Hannaford Supermarket and the Lincoln County Rifle Club and across the street from Dunkin’ Donuts and The Penalty Box.
Daniel Catlin, CEO of Commercial Properties Inc., of Portland, is the developer and prospective buyer of the property, according to a purchase-and-sale agreement.
Catlin’s plan calls for the construction of three commercial buildings: a 22,000-square-foot-building for two retail stores, a 5,525-square-foot building with three retail spaces, and a 2,700-square-foot bank with a drive-thru.
The planning board did not take any action, as Catlin has yet to submit an application. The board will hold a public hearing on the proposal Monday, Sept. 18. (See related article in this edition.)
Once the signature validation is complete and the petitioners present to the board, the selectmen have 60 days to call a special town meeting to address the petition.
The next meeting of the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen will take place at the town office at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 15.