WINDHAM — A discussion about amendments to the land use ordinance regarding a commercial zoning district drew the ire of some town councilors Tuesday night, with one “accusing this council of abuse of power.”
The Town Council has been discussing adding construction services as a use to the C-3 zone for months, since co-owner of Water Systems Inc. Holly Tubbs first raised the issue at a council meeting.
The council had also considered doing so three years ago but ultimately voted against the proposal.
Planning Director Amanda Lessard said Tuesday that the Planning Board recommended “that the council approve the changes to allow contractor services and contractor storage yard but not include the heavy construction services minor as a use in the C-3 zoning district.”
The difference between minor and major heavy construction services is the number of trucks a business owns. Less than three is considered minor.
Much of the debate centered around adding heavy construction services to the zone.
Councilor Dave Nadeau disagreed with the proposal and said he was worried about the noise pollution and disturbance such businesses could bring to residential areas: “I think we’re disturbing the neighborhood.”
Councilor Tim Nangle was also concerned about noise.
“This zone has always been residential and light commercial. We’re putting heavy into a light commercial zone. This isn’t the zone for this,” he said.
Councilor Jarrod Maxfield felt that the process was being rushed.
“Why is this particular issue being hurried through the town when we had moratoriums for mineral extraction … we had moratoriums around Highland Lake. Those had to go to the Long Range Planning Committee,” he said. “Why is this issue of such importance to the town that it has the ability to bypass the process?”
Councilor Donna Chapman supported the Planning Board’s recommendation.
Council Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Cummings agreed, expressing her support of Tubbs and saying, “Windham needs business space.”
Maxfield also took issue with the fact that Cummings signed Tubbs’ local petition.
“We have four councilors here who have made up their minds, are skipping the process that everything else in town goes through so that they can pass something for their friends,” he said. “Why can’t this just stand in line and go to Long Range Planning just like everything else?”
Chapman responded, “Jarrod, please don’t ever accuse me of something I’m not doing. … This is something that was brought up in the past, and I supported this in the past.”
Maxfield later added, “I’m accusing this council of abuse of power.”
In response to Maxfield’s questions about the issue “skipping the process,” Tom Bartell of the Windham Economic Development Corporation said, “If I may, this is the process.”
Lessard added, “This is not one of the recommendations or goals or strategies within the comprehensive plan.” The LRPC is tasked with implementing the recommendations from the comprehensive plan.
Another issue councilors discussed was the distinction between three and four trucks and what would happen when a business bought its fourth truck.
“Come and grow your construction company in the C-3 to three trucks but when you get four trucks, you’ve got to go. How would that set anybody up for success?” Maxfield asked.
Chapman said town clerks would be aware of how many trucks businesses owned through vehicle registrations.
Some councilors agreed that if heavy construction services were not allowed, they would support the proposal and allow contractor services and contractor storage yard into the zone.
The council will have a public hearing on the issue on May 28.
Also on Tuesday night, the council discussed proposed amendments to the animal control ordinance.
Councilors generally agreed with Police Chief Kevin Schofield’s draft and suggested some minor changes.
Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Councilor Donna Chapman speaks in support of the zoning changes Tuesday night.