Planning board approves application of controversial fireworks store
Searsport — The first fireworks store in Searsport has been granted approval despite the objections of several neighboring property owners.
Searsport Planning Board met June 2 and reconsidered a previous decision that the application by Hiedi and Robert Gordon to open a fireworks store on Main Street in Searsport, met all the requirements under the land use ordinance. John Hamer, the attorney representing the Gordons, objected to the board reconsidering its previous decision, but the board's legal representative Kristen Collins said until the final application had been approved the board could reconsider any previous findings.
Hamer then questioned why board member Brian Callahan, who at a previous meeting had voted that the application was acceptable under the land use ordinance, had moved to reconsider that decision at the last meeting. Callahan said he had discussed the application with a citizen outside of the meeting who had given him new information that made him rethink his previous vote.
Collins said that Callahan engaging in conversations about the application outside the meeting could present a problem for the board and suggested Callahan rescind his original motion and a different member of the planning board make a new motion to reconsider. Board member Mark Bradstreet made the new reconsideration motion.
Bradstreet said he did not feel the application was acceptable under the land use ordinance because it was not similar in use to the types of businesses allowed in that zone, which included small retail stores, bed and breakfasts, books stores and veterinary offices, among others.
Hamer said the proposed fireworks store was close in use to a books store, as it would see similar traffic patterns, hold similar hours of operation and had similar signage and lighting.
Bradstreet made a motion to find the application did not meet the requirements under the land use ordinance for the R-2 zone, but his motion failed after it was not seconded.
Collins suggested the board look at all the types of businesses listed in the land use ordinance for any zone to determine which use was most similar to the proposed fireworks store. Since the ordinances were written before fireworks were legalized in Maine, fireworks stores are not mentioned specifically in the town's ordinances.
At previous meetings several abutters had objected to the proposed application for a variety of reasons including that it did not provide proper screening and that a fireworks store did not fit with the character of the neighborhood.
After some discussion the board agreed that it was best described as a small retail store, as defined in the ordinance, which is allowed in the R-2 zone. The board voted 3-1 with Mark Bradstreet opposed that the application met that portion of the land use ordinance. Brian Callahan abstained.
The board had met over the last several months and voted that the application met all the other land use and site plan review standards, and so voted to grant the application with the stipulation that a temporary storage trailer only be allowed on the property three times per year for no more than 10 days. The vote was four in favor with Callahan again abstaining.