TREMONT — Planning Board members have decided to be proactive instead of reactive in proposing amendments to the zoning ordinance that would require site plan review of large-scale developments.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Planning Board Chairman Mike Ryan.
Ryan said the board began working on a section of the ordinance to deal with large projects years ago. After that effort stalled, the zoning ordinance amendment committee took over and produced a draft document. The Planning Board has built upon that work and approved a draft in March to present to voters.
On Monday, selectmen voted to put the site plan review and two related documents – updates on the zoning ordinance itself and the floodplain management ordinance – on the warrant for a future town meeting. No date has been set but, at the request of the Planning Board and town manager, voters are to consider adoption of the three amended ordinances on the floor at an open town meeting.
Ryan said the site plan review process dovetails with some of the aims of the town’s comprehensive plan. It includes maintaining the rural character of Tremont. Seeing development in other areas of Mount Desert Island was a factor in moving forward with the ordinance amendment.
“We’re looking over at Bar Harbor, really,” Ryan said.
The review process isn’t designed to stop large development, Ryan stressed. Instead it would ensure that these developments proceed responsibly and not have an adverse effect on the environment or infrastructure.
As proposed, there would be a section added to the zoning ordinance which would determine if site plan review is needed. An appendix to the ordinance would describe the process itself and includes the requirements for submitting a plan, what the Planning Board is to consider and how to appeal a decision of the board.
Among the issues the Planning Board would look at are traffic management, water and sewer systems and solid waste disposal. Water quality and groundwater protection also would be considered.
Ryan said he feels it is important for voters to approve the site plan review process because it would “protect them from large-scale development that might impact the infrastructure in a costly manner.”
The proposed updates to the zoning ordinance are mostly of a housekeeping nature, with a new section-numbering system and a few minor changes to the language. The major change is in the section on shoreland zoning, which Ryan said has been rewritten to bring it in line with current state shoreland zoning requirements.
The proposed floodplain ordinance would comply with recent federal requirements, Ryan said.