Bath looks to revamp its zoning regulations

Published 6:52 am Friday, June 27, 2008

By Staff
Trailer parks, pornare top concerns
Staff Writer
BATH — A proposal to ban new mobile-home parks will soon be heading to the town’s Board of Commissioners, along with other changes to the town’s rules for new buildings.
After 17 years, Bath is once again updating its zoning ordinance — changing the list of what types of buildings and businesses are allowed to be built in specific areas of the town.
The town’s planning board will recommend a slate of changes, but it will be up to the town’s Board of Commissioners exactly which of those become law.
The most dramatic suggestions for change so far have dealt with mobile homes and the town’s light industrial zone, but the process, which began in November, could last another six months, Eddy Davis, planning director for the Mid-East Commission, said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
In that time, the board will touch on controversial issues including the historic district and other issues, such as possible regulation in local waterways.
When townspeople heard a rumor earlier this month that commissioners would seek a no-wake zone in nearby waterways, hundreds signed a petition opposing the move.
Davis said the zoning review was prompted by the increasing development of the town.
One of the biggest changes proposed in the way mobile homes are regulated is a proposed move away from trailer parks.
Instead, under the planning board’s proposal, the structures would be allowed on lots in both of the two residential zoning districts. Before they had been allowed only in the denser of the two housing zones.
Also new would be a suggested regulation banning mobile homes manufactured before 1976. That was the year federal regulations brought the homes more in line with state building codes, Davis said.
The old homes are mostly available from individual sellers, he said.
The other major topic of discussion was the light industrial zone.
The zone applies to only 7 acres in Bath — the former site of a plant that made filters using charcoal.
The list of businesses the planning board has decided to recommend to the Board of Commissioners is several entries shorter than the existing list.
The law regulating allowed uses would only come into play if someone started a new business or businesses on the former plant site.
If new development did come, anyone wanting to start a bottling plant, tire recapping or lab-research operation would have to ask the commissioners to amend the law, under the planning board’s proposed plan.
Talk of cutting out two broadly phrased categories, “inside fabrication” and a provision dealing with factory outlets, was countered by board chairman Buck Sitterson.
For a while the planning board mulled asking town commissioners to ban printing presses because members were afraid the presses would be used to produce pornography, they said.
After asking Davis a number of questions, the board decided to recommend that printing plants be allowed to remain on the list of approved uses for the site.
Davis explained that businesses focusing strictly on explicit or adult material are disallowed under existing rules, and it would be problematic to try to keep a publisher from printing certain types of content rather than others.
And, since the allowed use is a press, not a store, any material with nudity or other provocative or risque content would be shipped out in closed containers.
The planning board won’t hold a zoning ordinance workshop in July. The next session will be held before the Aug. 25 meeting of the town’s Planning and Historic boards.