2017-09-07 / Neighbors

Arundel sets town meeting

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — Voters in Arundel just passed a host of land use regulation amendments at their annual town meeting in June, but there’s still more tweaking to be done.

Selectmen have called for a special town meeting to amend rules governing recreational vehicle use at campgrounds and to adopt a new ordinance to implement equestrian performance standards.

The meeting will take place just before the regular selectmen’s meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11, in the library at the Mildred L. Day Elementary School.

The campground rule changes have been championed by Bentley’s Saloon and Campground on Route 1, which earlier in the year signed a consent agreement with selectmen over illegal winter storage of several RVs

Business owner Bentley Warren III is in the midst of a multiyear plan to add 137 additional camping spots over five phases to 53 already on the 46.8-acre property. During site walks on the site starting in the spring of 2016, planning board members made note of about a dozen campers which Warren had allowed to stay over the winter.

Arundel’s land use ordinance limits occupancy at campgrounds to 12 of the 18 weeks between May 15 and Sept. 15. Campers can be on site for up to two weeks outside that timeframe, but anything beyond that constitutes illegal “winter storage.”

According to Town Manager Keith Trefethen, the planning board interpreted that to mean that campers and RVs need to be removed from the property in the off-season, even though half of the dozen units that remained on site last winter belonged to Warren, while he did not charge a site fee for the rest. Thus, even though code enforcement officer Jim Nagle never issued Warren a formal notice of violation, his expansion application hit the skids, and the planning board refused to consider it. That decision was based on a 1994 board of selectmen policy that denies permits or licenses to any property with an outstanding violation, until the issue is cleared up, or a consent agreement is signed.

At a May 8 selectmen’s meeting, Warren signed a consent agreement with selectmen in which, for a $100 fee, the town agreed to seek no enforcement or punitive action against Warren.

Trefethen said at the time the issue is somewhat moot. With the new season set to start May 15, he said, the violating campers would once again be legal under the letter of the law.

Given that Arundel’s land use ordinance contains no timeframe for how long an RV must be offsite before returning, Nagle ruled at one point that Warren could satisfy the rules simply by moving the stored RVs “around the block,” and back again, effectively erasing the violation and resetting the clock.

Still, Warren expects to store the campers once again over this coming winter, and his attorney, Robert Kline, suggested that to move things along, everyone simply agree to amend the winter storage rules before the snow flies once more. That, too, was rejected by the planning board, which stuck to its guns and declined to hear Warren’s application until the issue was resolved in the past tense, without relying on some future fix.

The consent agreement called on neither side to acknowledge any violation ever took place, and for selectmen to put a new land use ordinance amendments before voters at the annual town meeting.

Since then, a new set of rules has wound its way through the municipal pipeline. If approved by voters Sept. 11, the amended ordinance would change the definition of an RV from something registered with the Maine Division of Motor Vehicles to anything with “axles attached.” That will allow the unit to be considered as a vehicle by the town and not a structure, which would trigger an entirely different set of codes.

The amendment also would allow the wheels to be removed so long as they “remain with the RV.” Under the current ordinance, the wheels must remain attached to the unit.

The update also would extend the season for campgrounds from April 1 to Oct. 31, while stipulating that the site needs to be wholly unoccupied only from Nov. 1 to March 31. It also eliminates a ban on winter storage of “camping units,” such as RVs.

Structures such as decks, patios, and so-called Florida rooms would require a permit from the code enforcement officer, and would be limited in size to either 400 square feet or the total square footage of the RV unit they are attached to, whichever is less, while no structure could exceed the roofline of the RV to which it is attached.

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