2017-09-29 / Front Page

Arundel adopts new rules

By Wm. Duke Harrington StafWriter

ARUNDEL — At a special town meeting Monday, Sept. 25, voters in Arundel adopted new rules for commercial horse stables and for recreational vehicles (RVs) parked at local campgrounds.

About 45 people attended the session, held prior to the regular selectmen’s meeting in the library of the Mildred L. Day Elementary School. Not a single question was asked and the entire affair, including the election of selectboard chairman Thomas Danylik as meeting moderator, lasted less than eight minutes.

The campground rule changes were championed by Bentley’s Saloon and Campground on Route 1, which earlier in the year signed a consent agreement with selectmen over illegal winter storage of several RVs

Business owner Bentley Warren III is in the midst of a multi-year plan to add 137 additional camping spots over five phases to 53 already on the 46.8-acre property. During site walks on the property starting in the spring of 2016, planning board members made note of about a dozen campers Warren had allowed to stay on site over the winter.

Arundel’s land use ordinance at that time limited occupancy at campgrounds to 12 of the 18 weeks between May 15 and Sept. 15. Campers could only be on site for up to two week’s outside that timeframe. Anything beyond that constitutes illegal “winter storage.”

According to Town Manager Keith Trefethen, the planning board interpreted that to mean campers and RVs need to be removed from the property in the off-season, even though half of the dozen units that remained on site last winter actually belonged to Warren, while he did not charge a site fee for the rest. Thus, even though code enforcement officer Jim Nagle never issued Warren a formal notice of violation, his expansion application hit the skids, and the planning board refused to consider it.

That decision was based on a 1994 board of selectmen policy that denies permits or licenses to any property with an outstanding violation, until the issue is cleared up, or a consent agreement signed.

At the May 8 selectmen’s meeting, Warren signed just such an agreement with selectmen, in which, for a $100 fee, the town agreed to seek no enforcement or punitive action against Warren. Trefethen said at the time the issue was somewhat moot. With the new season set to start May 15, he said, the violating campers would once again be legal under the letter of the law.

Given that Arundel’s land use ordinance contains no timeframe for how long an RV must be off-site before returning, Nagle ruled at one point that Warren could satisfy the rules simply be moving the stored RVs “around the block,” and back again, effectively erasing the violation and resetting the clock.

Still, Warren expected to store the campers once again over this coming winter, and his attorney, Robert Kline, suggested to move things along, everyone simply agree to amend the winter storage rules before the snow flies once more. That, too, was rejected by the planning board, which stuck to its guns and declined to hear Warren’s application until the issue was resolved without relying on some future fix.

The consent agreement called on neither side to acknowledge any violation ever took place, and for selectmen to put a new land use ordinance amendments before voters at the annual town meeting. Those edits would have extended the defined camping season by three months, moving the end dates to April 1 and Oct. 31, and added park models that remain mounted on a chassis, even if wheels are not in place, to the ordinance definition of recreational vehicles.

“This [change] is just trying to come into compliance with the industry, it’s not unique to this town,” said Rick Licht, of Gray-based Licht Environmental Design, who has acted as agent for Warren’s proposed campsite expansion.

However, selectmen were not keen on any consent agreement that called on placing an ordinance update before voters.

“I’ve never really seen any consent agreement that puts more obligation on the community to do stuff than the violator,” Selectman Thomas Danylik said. “And usually you admit to the violation and there’s a penalty of some sort for the town agreeing not to pursue things in the courts.”

Kline asked selectmen to at least include a line in the agreement directing the planning board to consider the policy question resolved.

“Well, according to the policy, once there’s a consent agreement, they [the planning board] should be good to go,” Danylik said.

Since then, a new set of rules wound its way through the municipal pipeline. As approved by voters, the amended ordinance changes the definition of an RV from something registered with the Maine Division of Motor Vehicles to anything with “axles attached.”

That allows the RV unit to be considered as a vehicle by the town and not a structure, which would trigger an entirely different set of codes.

The amendment also allows the wheels to be removed so long as they “remain with the RV.” Under the old ordinance, the wheels had to remain attached to the unit.

The update also extends the season for campgrounds from April 1 to Oct. 31, while stipulating that campgrounds need to be wholly unoccupied only from November 1 to March 31. It also eliminates a ban on winter storage of “camping units,” such as RVs.

Structures such as decks, patios and so-called Florida rooms still require a permit from the code enforcement officer, and are limited in size to either 400 square feet, or the total square footage of the RV unit they are attached to, whichever is less. No structure may exceed the roofline of the RV to which it is attached.

Finally, the update modifies slightly language covering the ability of the planning board to require “screening and buffer- ing” to block campsites from view of the main road, while also mandating that campsites provide the town with an inventory of all RVs on site by April 1 of each year. Although largely the work of Warren’s attorneys, the new rules apply to all campgrounds in Arundel.

“This will make sure all of our campground fall under the same guidelines,” Trefethen said. Meanwhile, an additional amendment is expected in the near future, as the draft that went before voters Monday did not allow for park model units.

“Bentley’s people are going to ask at a later date to have two or three words changed,” Selectmen Phil Labbe explained at the Aug. 28 selectboard meeting, reporting on his observations at the Aug. 10 planning board session. “The Planning board members said if you try to do that now, you’re not going to make the special town meeting. So, they said we’ll let it be as is and come back later.”

Without passage of the new ordinance, Bentley’s would have been in violation of the old ordinance by the end of September, assuming the RV units currently at his campground were not moved.

Horse play

The new equestrian ordinance adopted by voters governs stables with more than 11 horses, while defining sites that house more than 30 horses as equestrian centers. In addition to setting the zones in which such businesses could be located and a minimum lot size of five acres — with one half-acre of “usable area” per horse — the new rules set standards for building setbacks, driveway construction, sanitation, fencing, lighting, landscaping and vermin control.

The new ordinance also allows the planning board to restrict the number of horses allowed on any one property “based on site constraints and other limitations.”

“It’s strange, in our ordinances as they stood, we allowed for animal husbandry, which is for commercial use, but there really was no mechanism for someone to put in a commercial stable that would allow them to have riding events, or classes and so forth,” Town Planner Tad Redway said immediately following Monday’s meeting, regarding the need for the new rules. “They could have horses, but they couldn’t do anything with them. So, if you wanted to have a dressage competition, for example you couldn’t do it.”

Redway said the old rules recently cost the town at least one “significant” development.

“We had several people who wanted to have commercial stables where riding could be taught and have events, and legally they couldn’t,” he said. “And some of those people had put in a huge investment only to find out from our code enforcement officer they couldn’t do it. So, this was an attempt to rectify that and allow that type of business. Unfortunately, because this took a while to get going, we had to turn somebody away who wanted to do a really big facility.”

Commercial stables can now set up shop in all 13 zoned areas in town except the urban residential district, one of the two downtown business districts, and two of the three shoreland zoning areas.

In the third shoreland zone, stables would be allowed only if permitted in the underlying zone. Equestrian centers will be allowed only in the rural conservation zone and Alfred Road Business District.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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