Fence, lot size ordinances moved to Greenville town meeting

GREENVILLE — For months the Greenville Planning Board has been working on a pair of ordinances to be decided by voters at the annual town meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 3 at the Greenville Consolidated School, including one for fences and another to update the land use ordinance to be in compliance with state regulations on housing density.

Both documents were formally approved by the select board during a May 15 meeting.

Planning Board Chair John Contreni said unlike previous ordinances/moratoriums that were approved as proactive measures, the planning board had a fence issue come before it. “The fence ordinance was prompted by something that was happening in Greenville, it was a dispute between two neighbors,” he said.

The planning board was aware of the issue but could not do much and felt that having a fence ordinance in place would clarify such issues in the future.

“So we spent about six months in our meetings looking at fence ordinances and going through various drafts,” Contreni said. He said they reviewed 10 ordinances from around the state to develop Greenville’s.

If approved, the fence ordinance would go into the fifth article of the Greenville Land Use Ordinance, Performance and Design Standards to join areas such as signs and lighting.

The measure would provide general regulations such as fence permits needed to be issued by the code enforcement officer, prohibiting barbed wire and electric fences under many circumstances, and various maintenance definitions.

The document states the purpose of the ordinance is to provide regulations for fence installation and maintenance while allowing property owners the ability to install fences for aesthetic, screening, separating, or security purposes. The proposed ordinance is intended to advance public safety, maintain and protect property values, enhance the town’s appearance, and visually unify Greenville and its neighborhoods. The language says that fences are all held to a general standard, regardless of which zone district the barrier is in.

General regulations include permits written by the code enforcement officer are required for fence additions or alterations, property owners are responsible for knowing the exact property lines as determined by survey, fences cannot be in the right of way or on another’s property, the dividers cannot adversely affect traffic visibility on a street corner or a neighbor’s view while exiting a driveway. 

The ordinance says fences cannot be more than 8 feet high without special permission, they need to meet setback and right of way regulations, and cannot interfere with fire hydrants. Fences not currently in compliance cannot be moved or replaced without going through the permitting process.

Selectperson Richard Peat asked about fences already in place. 

“If you have a fence that is currently existing it doesn’t affect it at all unless you change that,” Contreni responded. He said fence modifications and new structure would require a permit, which currently are not needed.

The document mentioned a “fence viewer” such as the code enforcement officer to look into compliance.

“We think this ordinance is pretty comprehensive, it will not cover every single possible thing that folks will come up with but we think we covered most of them,” the planning board chair said.

Contreni said the ordinance defines what a fence is. “‘A fence functions to make a boundary or to prevent intrusion or escape regardless of its composition’ so that covers every possible thing, even a sand berm,” he said, mentioning a court case in New Jersey with a resident’s sand fence blocking a neighbor’s ocean view.

“I think you guys did a great job and it’s evident,” Select Chair Geno Murray said, thanking the planning board and CEO Ron Sarol for their work.

Contreni said the second ordinance is much simpler, decreasing the minimum lot size to place a home from 10,000 to 7,500 square feet in the residential, downtown No. 1 and 2, village, and village commercial district zones.

“The purpose of this is to increase the density of housing within Greenville,” he said.

The ordinance would help Greenville comply with state law LD 2003.

Decreasing the minimum lot size to 7,500 square feet will enable the town to increase the density of homes on properties which will help with the density compliance requirements of LD 2003, “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions” signed by Gov. Janet Mills in April 2022.

Per guidance on the act from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the law is designed to remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to housing production in Maine, while preserving local ability to create land use plans and protect sensitive environmental resources. Greenville has until July 1 to implement LD 2003.

The act guidance has sections relevant to municipalities, identifying amended sections of state law. Amendments include allowing for additional density for affordable housing developments in certain areas; generally requiring that municipalities allow between two and four housing units per lot where housing is permitted; requiring that municipalities allow accessory dwelling units to be located on the same lot as a single-family home under certain conditions; and requiring that the state establish statewide and regional housing production goals and set forth ways in which local governments can coordinate with that goal.

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