No new commercial developments over 4,000 square feet in size pending land use ordinance review

Lincolnville swiftly, unanimously approves moratorium on major nonresidential developments

Tue, 12/12/2023 - 6:00am

    LINCOLNVILLE — In a town where citizens are known to speak up and debate issues, they surprised even themselves Dec. 11 when they voted unanimously in favor of an 180-day moratorium on major nonresidential developments. Not a single nay vote was cast, and the result earned a cheer from the entire room of approximately 250 residents.

    And it all took place within 15 minutes, without a single public comment.

    Town Administrator David Kinney said the town would now begin the process of preparing amendments for its land use ordinance, which will require voter approval. Should the town need more time to craft amendments, the moratorium could be extended for another 180 days.

    “That process can be repeated over and over again,” he said, until amendments are ready for voter consideration.

    The Dec. 11 special town meeting took place at in the Linconville Central School cafeteria, with an anticipated start time of 6 p.m. That was delayed by half an hour, however, given the number of residents who lined up outside the school doors, chatting patiently while waiting to sign in as registered Lincolnville voters.

    They had filled the parking lots and lined the driveways with their cars, coming in from all parts of town – the Beach, Route 52 toward Northport, from over by the Hope town line, and eastward, from the Youngtown Road. While the total number of voters who arrived to cast their ballot has yet to be determined, it was estimated that at least 350, perhaps 400, fit into the cafeteria.

    Some arrived by wheelchair, others squeezed in and stood against the back wall or by the doors. Several parents took their children, equipped with drawing paper and pencils to keep them occupied. 

    As the cafeteria filled, the five members of the Select Board relocated their own table onto the stage to create more space, and pitched in to line up another 30 chairs in the front to provide additional seating.

    Kinney asked for a vote to elect a moderator, and after Knox County Administrator Andrew Hart had been nominated, the room approved. Hart outlined the rules of conduct, and asked for a motion, which was made and seconded to approve the moratorium: “Shall an ordinance entitled ‘Town of Lincolnville Major Non-Residential Development Project Moratorium Ordinance’ be enacted?” The moratorium is retroactive to Nov. 13.

    Hart opened the floor to remarks from those in favor. Citizens looked around at each other, but no one stepped forward. 

    Hart then asked if anyone who opposed the measure wanted to speak.

    Likewise, there was no response.

    Smiling, Hart asked for a vote from all those in favor of the moratorium.

    Hands shot in the air from all corners of the room.

    “Any opposed?”

    There was a marked absence of movement, or noise. And then, the room erupted in with a cheer.

    The moratorium follows the Oct. 25 introduction of preliminary plans by South Portland engineers with Gorrill Palmer for a retail store on a field at Drakes Corner.  If approved by the town’s Planning Board, Maine Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Tier 1 Natural Resources Protection Wetland Permit), the store would consist of more than 4,000 square feet of floor space, plus walkways, loading area, and parking for 32 vehicles.

    With the store plus parking lot, the development footprint was gauged to be 10,640 square feet.

    Gorrill Palmer was representing Primax Properties, a Charlotte, North Carolina real estate development company. Primax describes itself as a, “real estate development and investment company focused on repetitive retail and commercial projects, nationwide, for our end-user tenants.” Its representative projects include a range of retail and restaurant chain businesses, such as Tractor Supply Company, Starbucks, Dollar General, Taco Bell, T.J. Maxx, West Marine, and more.

    Gorrill Palmer had not specified what brand name the retail store was to carry, and as of this month, had not submitted a full set of plans to the Lincolnville code enforcement office.

    Citizens had expressed concern about the plans, heightened by the site’s location in the Norton Pond watershed. 

    On Oct. 23, the Lincolnville Select Board voted unanimously to instruct the town administrator and town attorney to prepare a moratorium ordinance regarding major commercial site plans.

    The Select Board at that point was responding to citizen concern over the proposed retail store development.