Planning board finds fireworks store proposal does not meet performance standards

Continues final vote on application of one month
By Dan West | Apr 15, 2014

Searsport — The Searsport Planning Board voted unanimously that a temporary storage container included in the site plan for a proposed fireworks business on Route 1 does not meet the town's performance standards.

Applicant Robert Gordon told the Planning Board at its April 14 meeting a temporary storage container would be brought on to the property at 173 West Main St. The state fire marshall allows a container filled with fireworks to be held for up to 90 days before it must be emptied. Gordon said he planned to have the container present for shorter periods of time to restock his shelves during busy times of year for the fireworks industry, like the weeks leading up to Fourth of July.

Planning board vice-chair Keith Ritchie said the fact that the container was not required to have a sprinkler system, while the main store is required to install sprinklers was his concern. Planning board member Lee-Ann Horowitz said she was concerned about the lack of screening for the storage container.

Gordon suggested he could install a fence to screen views of the storage container from neighboring properties.

The board also decided to continue a vote on whether the fireworks store would effect property values for one month in order to give abutting property owners time to have a professional assessor determine if the retail store would have a negative effect.

Gordon said he did not think the proposed store would have a negative effect, saying the current lot is vacant and any store moving in would actually increase property values. However, several abutters disagreed saying they believed the store would hurt property values.

"You can't say it won't [affect property values], just like I can't say it will," abutting property owner Roland LaReau said, "but common sense dictates this much change will have an effect."

Other property owners questioned why more landscaping of the property couldn't be done. Gordon explained state law prohibits planting anything flammable within 30 feet of a fireworks store.

Abutting property owner George Kimmerly said the lack of landscaping and the presence of the storage container would have a negative impact on the "scenic value" of the area, which is one of the town's standards for judging an application.

"This is an insult to me and to all my neighbors," Kimmerly said. "We don't want this here."

The audience, which included about 20 people, applauded for Kimmerly's comments.

Planning board member Mark Bradstreet said he did not think the application was allowed in the residential zone it was proposed to be located in. The zone allows for retail stores, but lists examples of the types of stores, like books stores, that are acceptable. Bradstreet said the intent of the zone was to limit the type of stores allowed to those listed.

Planning board member George Kerper said, as the town learned in other contentious planning board decisions, that the intent of the rules isn't what matters, but how it is officially written. Kerper said he feared the town would open itself up for a lawsuit if it denied the application because of the current zoning.

The board voted 4-1 that the fireworks business was allowed by the current zoning ordinance. Bradstreet was opposed.

The planning board continued its decision on the application until May when abutters will have the opportunity to present a report from an assessor on possible impacts on surrounding property values.

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