Rule would curb runways

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The Gorham Planning Board on Monday referred to the Ordinance Committee for clarification of a proposed rule change that would prohibit runways for aircraft as an accessory use.

At issue is the definition of aircraft. Planning Board members questioned whether the definition would apply to unmanned drones, toy planes and ultralights that hobbyists fly.

Two years ago, an ultralight crashed off Longfellow Road in Gorham, and an Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the crafts do not have to be registered with the agency and are not considered an airplane.

No one from the public spoke at Monday’s Planning Board hearing about the matter. The board voted 6-0 on a motion by Planning Board member Melinda Shain to send the matter to the Ordinance Committee.

Zoning Administrator David Galbraith said on Tuesday that airstrips are not listed as permitted uses in any zone in town, but in the past permission had been granted as an accessory use. Gorham Code Officer Freeman Abbott said on Tuesday Shawn Moody built an airstrip last year.

The Town Council on July 16 forwarded to the Planning Board for a public hearing and its recommendation the proposed ordinance change that would halt “airstrips, runways and landing strips” as an accessory use.

If approved by the council, the ordinance change prohibiting airstrips would be retroactive to July16.

In other action, the board decided to hold a workshop about an ordinance amendment pertaining to all-terrain vehicles. Under the proposed change, “a motocross track shall not be considered an activity or a facility of a social nature.”

The issue surfaced this spring when Merritt Bennett proposed a motocross track at 463 Fort Hill Road. The motocross proposal came after Gorham banned Bennett from using a small, dirt-bike track for family and friends.

The town initially determined a track was not allowed in the rural district, but the Zoning Board of Appeals ruled that it would be allowed as a social institution.

Several neighbors opposed Bennett’s motocross proposal when it went to the Planning Board in May.

“I’ts turned into a giant drama,” Bennett told the Planning Board this week. “I can’t start a dirt bike on that property. All I want is my rights as an American citizen.”

Town Planner Tom Poirier indicated in Monday’s meeting that Bennett’s pending application would be affected if the town enacts the proposed amendment, which would be retroactive to July 16. The proposed amendment requires a public hearing and a recommendation by the Planning Board along with a public hearing and final approval by the Town Council.

– Robert Lowell

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