Beware of event centers in your backyard

19

Taxpayers and landowners, please go to www.gorham-me.org and sign up to receive email notices for new ordinances being proposed by the Planning Board and Town Council.

Why? Pretty soon, your neighborhood could go from quiet and peaceful to bordering an agricultural event center holding parties, dances and even concerts. The Planning Board is considering a zoning change that will permit a select few agricultural landowners to host up to 500 guests at 25 events per year.

This proposal will allow agricultural landowners to have these events for supplemental income so they won’t sell their land for houses. However, ownership of only five acres of land will qualify for an event center, and the owner need only show $5000 to $10,000 (proposed) in gross revenue, not income, from agricultural sources. Unlike other commercial businesses, the event center will not have to be shielded from neighbors by landscaping and events can continue until 10 p.m.

A Gorham employee submitted this proposal and it may exempt at least one council member from going through the very regulations that many Gorham residents have to meet for an in-home business or a commercial establishment. Moreover, this proposal will open up a Pandora’s box of potential development. One could purchase a house with a 5-acre parcel, raise hay at $5-8 per bale, and qualify for an event center.

Event centers easily generate $5,000 to $15,000 rental per event. Plus agricultural landowners already have reduced property taxes. Ask yourself, should a select few agricultural landowners be allowed to bypass requirements that other businesses and residents have to meet under the pretense of saving green space from house lots? Taxpayers need to speak up and insist conservation easements be used to buy development rights in the rural area instead of event centers.

Linda Pearson,  retired executive director, USDA

Gorham