To the Editor:
The Aug. 1 article entitled “Shoreland zoning edits eyed” by Sarah Hinckley hints at deficiencies in Southwest Harbor’s governance of land use.
It’s interesting that Southwest Harbor is the only place in Maine that has mixed land use zones — there are no residential zones. Planning Board members appear not to be conversant with State of Maine requirements.
The Town of Southwest Harbor is also unique in that it does not publish planning meeting minutes. Only 23 percent of meetings were posted to the planning board’s website over the past 10 years.
Perhaps these characteristics are a sign that the town is ready for zoning and governance changes. Changes that improve the balances between accommodating local businesses with protecting the environment and protecting the quality of residential life of all people that live and visit here who are not business owners.
To correct course, Southwest Harbor can learn from other island towns by following their example. The town should automatically publish planning meeting agendas and minutes; establish residential zones to promote family safety and quality of life; develop healthy inter-governmental partnerships with the State of Maine for environmental, quality of life, health and business standards; and incorporate committees that represent the voices of residents and tax payers who are not local registered voters.
Residents can create private neighborhood associations that organize to enforce common deed restrictions not reflected in town zoning as well as promote positive change that addresses local neighborhood community needs.
Let’s move governance forward in Southwest Harbor.