The Damariscotta Planning Board ruled a conditional use permit application from Mark Hoffman, of Maine-ly Pawn, to be incomplete Monday evening, Aug. 31. The decision followed a spirited public hearing about Maine-ly Pawn’s outdoor display of merchandise.
Hoffman filed for a conditional use permit in order to display merchandise on the front lawn of Maine-ly Pawn after two months of contact with Code Enforcement Officer Stan Waltz and the planning board.
When Maine-ly Pawn opened at its current location earlier this year, Hoffman told Waltz he believed the barn on the property provided plenty of room for sale goods and he would not be displaying anything outside as he had at his previous location. Hoffman has since displayed merchandise outside.
During the public hearing, planning board Chairman Jonathan Eaton asked Hoffman what his plans for the property were. On his application, Hoffman had listed “to store stuff outside.”
“My plan for the property is to sell items,” Hoffman said. “I can sell most things better than anyone I’ve met, and I can tell you visual aids are an important part of sales.”
Hoffman said most of the backlash about how he displays his merchandise probably stems from the fact that the store is a pawn shop even though it makes up only a small part of his business and he said very few people do not like how he displays his goods outside.
“Is it an eyesore? Well, if you don’t like lobster buoys living in coastal Maine, I guess to heck it is,” Hoffman said.
A spirited discussion ensued among those in attendance. Marcy Hatch, an employee at Maine-ly Pawn, agreed with Hoffman that only a limited number of people are not pleased with how the merchandise is displayed, and a majority enjoy the eclectic nature of the store.
“I think this is a great addition to the community,” Hatch said. “Before everybody passes judgment, come and see what we have.”
Neighbors of the property disagreed, citing the possibility that rats and other varmints could crawl into items. Waltz said this was unlikely, as there was no household trash or anything that would cause rats to live there based on his observations. Others said the displayed merchandise did not look to be organized but rather resembled “a constant yard sale.”
“We’re not trying to stop Mr. Hoffman from making a living,” said abutter Ruth Anne Bryant. “There’s nothing wrong with putting a few things outside, but this is a junkyard, and it grows daily and devalues the neighborhood.”
Eaton said the proximity of Maine-ly Pawn to Great Salt Bay Community School means the safety of children should be taken into consideration as stated in the site plan review ordinance. The ordinance reads, “where a potential safety hazard to small children would exist, physical screening/barriers shall be used to deter entry to such premises.”
“There is a school right behind you, and the more stuff you have out there, the more chances one of those kids could possibly go over there and get involved with that, even at night,” Eaton said.
Hoffman called Eaton’s interpretation a stretch.
“If two kids are going to beat each other with lobster buoys, we’ve got a bigger issue,” Hoffman said.
Following the public hearing, the planning board took less than 15 minutes to decide the application was incomplete.
“The ordinance says you need a permit and a plan and right now you have neither,” Eaton told Hoffman.
Board member Wilder Hunt made the motion that the application was incomplete as presented, which was seconded and passed unanimously. Hunt suggested Hoffman pay strict attention to the ordinance and follow it as closely as possible when resubmitting his application.
Maine-ly Pawn is on the agenda for the Sept. 14 planning board meeting. There is no public hearing scheduled before the meeting.