The Nobleboro Planning Board tabled a change of use application on Thursday, Sept. 16 concerning a proposed residence for people recovering from substance use disorder and decided to seek legal advice.
The planning board directed Tim Cheney, founder and chief executive officer of Enso Real Estate Holdings, LLC, and the Choopers Foundation, to resubmit the application with more of the required information for the next meeting on Thursday, Oct. 21.
A new application will be considered if it is submitted to the town office at least 14 days prior to the next meeting.
This would be the fourth submission Cheney submits to the town related to Project Safe Harbor, the 26-bed recovery residence he wants to operate at the Nobleboro Antique Exchange building at 104 U.S. Highway 1.
The planning board reviewed a second updated application, submitted on Sept. 1 by Cheney because his third submission was not delivered until a few days before the meeting and the board did not have adequate time to review it.
After reviewing the first few requirements on the application checklist, the board determined the application was not complete and voted to table it.
Cheney cited Maine state law L.D. 353, “An Act Regarding the Safety of Recovery Residences,” and the fact that Nobleboro does not have zoning as reasons why he should not have to go before the planning board to obtain a change of use.
“Change of use implies that there is zoning and ordinances to support the change of use. And as there is no zoning in this area. That is sort of where my confusion lies at this point in time,” Cheney said.
Board Vice Chair Marianne Pinkham said the town should seek legal advice for an interpretation of that law.
“In the interest of the town of Nobleboro, given the back and forth, we should recommend that the town, at this point, seek legal counsel to determine the status of commercial versus residential,” Pinkham said.
Approximately 16 people packed the town hall, but no public comment was allowed at the meeting. Chair Matthew Lewis said the board would also seek advice on if a public hearing needs to be held concerning the application.
L.D. 353 states that a recovery residence must be treated as a residence for a family, for the purposes of the fire code, if it meets certain requirements. Some requirements are that the residence must have no more than two residents per bedroom, must have one full bathroom for every six residents, and meet all adopted building codes applicable to one- or two-family residences with regard to smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers.
Board member Michele Hallowell explained that town ordinance does require a change of use in a building to come before the planning board with a complete application.
“That law is specific to the fire code,” Hallowell said.
The board noted that the building has been a commercial use since its existence.
Code Enforcement Officer Stanley Waltz said the septic system for the facility will have to be a larger than 2,000 gallon per day system, necessitating an engineered septic system design to be submitted with the application.
Cheney said he did not wish to spend money on the design for an engineered septic system without knowing if his change of use would be approved by the planning board.
“It was my intent, obviously, to go along with code enforcement, whatever requirements are necessary for that, once the approval had been done,” Cheney said.
Board member Peter Gabbe said that all the requirements for the change of use application have to be satisfied for the planning board to first deem it complete, and then consider a final decision.
“This is an application that applies to anything that comes in front of the planning board. The fact that you are requesting a change doesn’t change what we require to accept your application,” Gabbe said.
“You need to complete the application as per the rules and regulations of the planning board in this town,” Gabbe added.
The board went back and forth with Cheney for about 10 minutes discussing why he needs to submit a complete application for a change of use from commercial to residential.
“These are documents that need to be complied,” Hallowell said.
According to a letter sent to abutters on Aug. 4, Enso Real Estate Holdings, LLC, executed a purchase and sale agreement with the current owners of the Nobleboro Antique Exchange with the intent to provide a home for people in recovery.
The next planning board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, at the Nobleboro town office.