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Searsmont streamlines Land Use Ordinance

By Fran Gonzalez | Jul 23, 2020
Courtesy of: Searsmont Planning Board The new Searsmont Land Use Map, along with the updated Land Use Ordinance, can be found on the town's website under Planning Board.

Searsmont — The town’s Land Use Ordinance, a hefty 200-page document that outlines how land can be developed, has been updated, streamlined and made easier for residents to use.

Planning Board Chairman Chris Halsted said in a conversation with The Republican Journal July 22 that the document now is 40 pages lighter. The update eliminated duplicate language in different sections and also removed some sections entirely that were better enforced through existing state regulations.

“We consolidated our table of land uses and took out individual parcel references to zone definitions in favor of letting the maps solely represent the location zones,” he said.

The entire report was also reformatted, which helped reduce it overall length.

Halsted said the revision was precipitated by a Shoreland Zoning oversight ― Searsmont’s map was never approved by the DEP.

“It was before my time on the board,” he said. “Likely it was just an unintentional record-keeping oversight — maybe a case of the town waiting for something from DEP and the DEP waiting on the town.”

A big part of the effort was to get the new map synced with the ordinance. Board members worked closely with DEP and attorney Bill Kelly to consolidate redundancies and simplify the language.

Halsted said the biggest changes relating to Shoreland Zoning were production of the map, properly referenced in the Land Use Ordinance, with the limited residential, resource protection and stream protection shoreland districts clearly identified.

Another significant change is the removal of timber harvesting in the Shoreland Zone regulations subsection. Halsted said DEP recommended this change as the Maine Forest Service oversees this activity as long as a town does not have its own regulations.

“Our regulations weren't any more strict than the state's and the town doesn't have the forestry expertise on staff that Maine Forest Service does,” he said.

Halsted said the Planning Board spent almost two years on the update with all members “extremely dedicated to the process and willing to slog through a lot of detailed information.“

“We worked with our town attorney and had a draft reviewed by DEP before presenting it to the town for a vote,” Halsted said. “This effort has resulted in a Land Use Ordinance that is easier to read and easier for residents, applicants and the Planning Board to use.”

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