January 30, 2013

China planners trying for business-friendly image

New land development guidelines update 20-year-old criteria

BY SUSAN M. COVER Staff Writer

CHINA -- Town planners are hoping a more positive spin on a set of land development guidelines will make the town seem more business-friendly.

Code Enforcement Officer Scott Pierz rewrote all 15 conditional use criteria for land development, which were reviewed Tuesday by the Planning Board. A public hearing on the changes -- more stylistic than substantive -- will be set at a future date.

Written 20 years ago, the current criteria "put people on the defensive immediately" when they are considering a business in town, said Planning Board member James Wilkens.

For example, the criteria now read: "The provisions for buffers and on-site landscaping do not provide adequate protection to neighboring properties from detrimental features of the development."

The proposed rewrite says: "On site landscaping and buffering may be necessary to adequately protect neighboring properties from aspects of your proposal. Identify what landscaping and buffering features you will utilize to protect your neighbors and minimize potential impacts possibly caused by your proposed use."

Pierz said he works with businesses similar to the way an economic development director would, and he wants to encourage people to tell their stories when they need permits from the town.

Wilkens agreed with the new approach.

"Telling their story is a big difference from answering negative questions," Wilkens said. "This is a big difference. This is nice."

The board will have more time to review the rewrite before it is posted for a public hearing. It then would go to the Board of Selectmen and on to voters, probably in June or November.

"They are an initial draft to get those negative things spun around so you might not feel over-regulated, intimidated," Pierz said.

He said despite negative feedback from residents, town planners over the last 18 years have rejected only one out of "dozens and dozens and dozens" of applications for new businesses. The most recent controversial proposal for a truck park on Parmenter Hill Road was postponed after the applicant put on hold plans to get permits from the town.

The planners met for an annual orientation meeting at the China Dine-Ah, which gives them a chance to meet in a more relaxed setting, Pierz said. The meal for five board members and two town staffers came to about $140 with tip included, which comes out of the Planning Board budget, he said.

Also, the board approved spending $3,000 from its budget to help pay for updated aerial images of the town, known as orthoimagery. In total, China will spend $8,100 on the project, with other money coming from the maintenance and Town Office accounts, Planning Board Chairman Ronald Breton said.

Susan Cover -- 621-5643

scover@mainetoday.com

ROAD WORK PLANNED

A major road construction project is planned this summer for Routes 3 and 32, according to China Planning Board Chairman Ronald Breton.

The state is resurfacing 9.65 miles on Route 3 from Church Hill Road in Augusta to Windsor Road in China and about 1 mile on Route 32 from Route 3 to West Tobey Road.

The Maine Department of Transportation is estimated to start the resurfacing project in July with a completion date toward the end of November, according to letters sent to the town. Once the new pavement is in place, no new driveways will be permitted in that area for three years.

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