Legal representation sought by Planning Board over fireworks store application

By Dan West | May 20, 2014

The Searsport Planning Board has continued its review of an application by Robert and Hiedi Gordon to open a fireworks store on Main Street in Searsport until it hires legal counsel.

Planning Board Chair Bruce Probert suggested obtaining legal counsel after more than an hour of discussion on the application during the board's May 12 meeting. The question at hand was whether the board could reconsider performance standards it had already approved at a previous meeting.

John Hamer, the attorney representing the Gordons, said he felt reconsidering standards that the board had already voted the application met would violate due process. Probert, who had recused himself from voting due to an unnamed personal bias, said he thought the board would need legal counsel to determine if that was the case. The board also wanted an attorney to help determine if the fireworks store was allowed under the current land use ordinance. It had previously determined at its April 14 meeting that it was because it was a retail store, which is allowed in the residential 2 zone.

The board also reviewed two performance standards it had determined were not met at its last meeting. The board decided in April that a temporary storage container which would hold surplus fireworks did not meet its standards due to its visual impact and potential dangers. However, at its last meeting the board received an explanation from the state fire marshal explaining the safety features of the containers approved to hold fireworks, which are designed to contain a fire within the container walls.

Gordon also agreed to limit the time the storage trailer could be on the property to no more than 10 days at a time and three times a year. In light of that stipulation the board voted unanimously that it met that performance standard.

The board had continued its April meeting in part to give abutting property owners time to have a professional assessment done to determine if there was a negative effect on property values from having a fireworks store located near by.

Abutting property owner Roland LaReau said he contacted two assessors, but neither could give a definitive answer as to how a fireworks store would affect property values, though he said both agreed to store would have an effect. LaReau said because fireworks stores are new to Maine, and because there are none currently located in residential areas in Maine, the effect on property values can't be quantified. However, he said he felt it would have a negative effect.

The board agreed that without evidence from a qualified assessor showing property values the application passes that performance standard.

Two other abutters also spoke expressing their displeasure with the project, especially over the lack of screening on the property.

Once the board has obtained legal counsel it will hold a special meeting to move forward on the application.

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