Two properties abutting the industrial zone at Mack Point could be rezoned as industrial from commercial based on the owners' requests.

The proposed change to the properties owned by Bain Pollard and William Banks has been forwarded to the Board of Selectmen for possible inclusion on the town meeting warrant.

According to Planning Board Chairman Bruce Probert, there are few differences between the commercial and industrial zones. The town's Land Use Ordinance definitions of commercial zones (there are three) and the industrial zone show many similarities but there are several uses allowed in the industrial zone that are not allowed in any of the commercial zones. Those industrial zone only uses include seafood processing, packaging and distribution; towers; tradesmen shops; windmills; automobile junk/salvage yard; bulk fuel distribution facility – wholesale; chemical manufacturing and/or distribution; concrete plant; disposal of hazardous/leachable materials; disposal of solid waste other than agriculture; pulp mill; sewage treatment facility; storage/transport of leachable materials; and transportation facility and terminal yard.

Residents expressed some concern the board would consider a zone change without knowing what type of business might locate on the properties. Probert said Maine Materials Inc. is interested in pouring pads for storage of salt on Pollard's property but he is not aware of any plans for Banks' property aside from "it's not a scrap metal thing" and then alluded to earlier rumors of a wood chip operations. He explained that storage of salt falls under the warehouse, bulk storage, guidelines and would be permissible in both zones.

Resident Tom Gocze said he was concerned that the rezoning could lead to loss of vegetative buffers in the area, opening the properties more to public view. He suggested the planning board create a light industrial zone and a heavy industrial zone to further differentiate uses and designate the two properties as light industrial uses.

"I'm not averse to the change but want a better understanding of what's going on here," Gocze said, adding he does not intend to make every suggested change to Mack Point properties into an adversarial situation between residents and Planning Board members. "We need to keep things balanced and not become an industrial town."

Probert countered that there are a number of amenities available in Searsport drawing industrial businesses, including the highway, water frontage and railroad but clarified the Planning Board only is supporting presenting the zone change to voters, not making an endorsement.

"I wish the two property owners were here, this benefits them. It doesn't benefit me," Probert said.

Jay Economy, owner of Yardarm Motel, said his concerns revolve around noise disturbing guests as well as increased traffic in the area.

"Route 1 isn't adequate to handle that type of traffic," he said. "The commercial zone is much more compatible with our business."

Probert pointed out Planning Board members handle all requests for zone changes the same, using the example of Economy seeking to change his property to a residential zone.

"We would support you the same way," he said.

"But it sounds like they can do what they want to do without this change," Economy said. "… you're supporting it going to industrial and it doesn't need to be."

Selectman Meredith Ares said she feels the ordinances are in place to protect the town.

"To allow something to come in without knowing what it is, is like dropping your gloves during a boxing match," she said. "There doesn't seem to be any reason to change. … It's just a matter of calling a quick town meeting to change it later."

Ares cited the recent decision to grant Grimmel Industries a junkyard license and conditional permit to operate on Sprague Energy property at Mack Point and said, "There just wasn't any way to keep them out."

Resident Phyllis Sommer said she agrees the voters should decide on the change at town meeting and concurred with Gocze's suggestion of light and heavy industrial zones.

"For future development, the difference can be monumental," she said.

Editor's note: This story has been changed from the original version to correct statements regarding the Planning Board vote. The Planning Board made its recommendation to the Board of Selectmen via letter Jan. 12.