Amend the proposed land use ordinances
To the Editor;
Voters in Dover-Foxcroft will have a second chance to weigh in on three proposed land use ordinances (LUO) rejected by the town last November. These ordinances are the result of many years of hard work by the Planning Board (PB) focused on creating a more robust regulatory framework to govern land use within our town. The product of this work comes in the form of three proposed ordinances: a revised general LUO, a LUO pertaining to Mega-Projects: Water Extraction and a LUO pertaining to Mega-Projects: Transportation Corridors (like the East-West Highway, gas and petroleum pipelines, major electrical transmission lines and wind farms). These ordinances, compared to the current LUO, provide significantly greater protection for the interests of both the individual resident and our town. The proposed ordinances are both thorough and detailed, covering most areas of concern. The PB members are to be commended for the considerable and thoughtful effort they put into the preparation of these documents on our behalf.
I have no disagreements with anything in the proposed ordinances; yet, I think they can be improved. Under the new ordinances, the permitting process for a Mega-Project follows the same administrative path as other projects that do not require approval by the town’s voters. For most projects, like construction of a new home, this process makes perfect sense. For Mega-Projects, the process comes up short. A Mega-Project is, by definition, a project that will have profound impacts on our town, altering its fundamental character not only for today but for all future generations. Given the potential impact of such a project, it seems unwise to exclude the town’s largest stakeholder group – the residents – from the final decision-making process; nor is it fair to place the burden for such a decision, and one likely to be very controversial, on the shoulders of the members of the PB, the selectmen or the code enforcement officer. A vote by the town’s residents places responsibility for approving or rejecting a Mega-Project exactly where it belongs — with the people of our town.
I suggest that the proposed ordinances be amended to include language to require any Mega-Project proposal to receive a majority affirmative vote by the voters of the town of Dover-Foxcroft before receiving a permit. This could be accomplished through a series of town meetings. A permit seeker would make a presentation at the first meeting describing the proposed project in detail. This would be followed by a second meeting, two months later, at which time proponents and opponents would speak and specific concerns could be addressed. Two months later, the town would vote. If the project receives an affirmative vote, the regular permitting process would resume. The interval between the first and second meetings provides the various stakeholder groups time to consider their positions and prepare for their presentations at the second meeting. The interval between the second meeting and the vote allows for preparation of final documents and communication of those documents to the voters for inspection 30 days or more before the final vote.
Further amendments would provide additional protections for our town. These include financial disclosure requirements for permit seekers, greater compensation for land acquired by eminent domain and for loss of valuation for land in proximity to a Mega-Project, and a 50-50 division of all profits from any extraction project between the town and the responsible Mega-Project operators. These changes only require simple additions to the current documents. The Planning Board will hold a town meeting to discuss these ordinances Thursday, April 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Morton Avenue Municipal Building meeting room. I urge everyone to attend.