Letter to the editor: Barry M. Faber

Time to start over with public participation in Rockland

Posted:  Monday, February 11, 2019 - 9:00am
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Many on the Rockland City Council, who recently moved to Rockland, seem to resent my questioning their assumptions. Before I retired, while maintaining a fulltime legal practice, I served as chairman of the school board, attorney for the City of Rockland, and judge of probate for Knox County.  

In all those positions, FACTS and CITING LAW were of utmost importance. 

Assumptions were always questioned, and no one was shut out of the process. 

The law in the state of Maine, is the Maine Revised Statutes Annotated or MRSA.

MRSA Title 30-A Section 4325 is the law entitled Zoning Ordinances. 

No. 1: 1 Public participation required. 

The public SHALL be given an adequate opportunity to be heard in the preparation of a zoning ordinance. “

No. 2: Relation to Comprehensive Plan.

A zoning ordinance must be pursuant to and consistent with a Comprehensive Plan adopted by the municipal legislative body.”

On December 27, 2018 the Comprehensive Planning Commission sent a memorandum to the mayor and the city councilors.

“The Comprehensive Planning Commission recommends postponing the vote on Ordinance Amendment  No. 48 saying, ‘Although it encourages infill development, it is very specific to which zones AND REPEATEDLY mentions “infill which reflects the existing character of the neighborhood.’”

No one has explained justification for this “one size fits all plan.” For example, in Residential AA zone, Residential A zone, and Residential B zone, the front setback is reduced to 10 feet for all. It was reduced from 35 feet in AA, 25 feet in A, and 15 feet in B.

The rear setback is reduced to 8 feet for all. It was reduced from 25 feet in AA, 25 feet in A, and 20 feet in B zone. The Rural Residential was changed significantly, as well. 

Three councilors voted for this. One was opposed. One was absent. 

No city planner was hired or involved. Four members of the tiny house committee drafted this ordinance along with Mayor Westkaemper, who chaired the committee. 

It is time to start over with public participation, advice of a City Planner,  and adherence to the Comprehensive Plan. It is not something to try to see if it works. 

Barry M. Faber lives in Rockland.