WINDHAM — After months of deliberations, the Town Council voted Tuesday night against amending the town’s land use ordinance to allow construction services in the commercial district 3 zone, which surrounds sections of Route 302.
The council had considered similar zoning amendments three years ago but ultimately voted against the proposal. Holly Tubbs, co-owner of Water Systems, Inc., a plumbing business at 158 Roosevelt Trail, brought the request before the council in December 2018. The council has met several times on the matter since.
During the May 28 meeting, councilors also unanimously approved amendments to the town’s animal control ordinance and were kept apprised about the search for a permanent town manager.
Planning Director Amanda Lessard at the May 7 council meeting said 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 councilors voted 5-2 to accept the amendment, with Council Chairman Clayton Haskell and Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Cummings opposed.
Councilor Tim Nangle then addressed the height of fencing required for contractor storage yards.
The amendment proposed that storage yards, including landscaping services, must shield all stockpiled materials – such as gravel and dirt, as well as heavy construction equipment –behind either a 6-foot fence or a building.
Nangle proposed increasing the requirement for fencing to 10 feet. “I just want the fences higher than 6 feet,” he said.
Councilor Donna Chapman disagreed, saying, “I have a concern for that because if somebody has a pile of mulch and a pile of loam out there, we’re going to require them to put up a 10-foot fence. No.”
Lessard clarified that the requirement was “intended to address the concerns that we heard and the recommendations in the comp plan that sections of C-3 are kind of the visual gateway to the community (because Route 302 enters Windham in the C-3 zone), and there should be some consideration given to screening those kinds of stockpiling of materials.”
Councilors voted 5-2 against Nangle’s motion, with he and Councilor Bob Muir in favor.
Nangle then proposed increasing the fence height to 8 feet, a motion that also failed.
The council then voted on allowing construction services into the C-3 zone, which also failed, meaning there will be no change to the uses allowed in the C-3 zone.
The animal control issue was first brought before the council March 5, when councilors discussed nuisance dogs and recent complaints about barking in town.
Since then, Police Chief Kevin Schofield has drafted amendments to the ordinance.
The draft proposes changes to sections regarding licensing, dogs at large, nuisance dogs, outdoor living standards and violations and penalties.
During public comment, Charles Hawkins urged the council to be cautious, saying “I just want to make sure that we’re not overburdening other dog owners in town just to go after somebody. I just want to make sure that we’re not going over the line and burning somebody.”
Nangle took issue with one stipulation filed under Nuisance Animals, which reads “no owner shall permit or allow any animal to bark, howl or make other sounds common to its species if such sounds recur in steady, rapid succession for 10 minutes or more or recur intermittently for 30 minutes or more.”
“So at 11 minutes,” he said, “somebody can call the police and the police begin the investigation of a crime. It seems to me that 10 minutes is just a little too short.”
Schofield replied, “Ten minutes is the least amount of time I’ve seen in sample ordinances. Most other ordinances I’ve seen were 20 minutes. I don’t think either one is going to have a significant impact on our response or how we may handle barking dogs or nuisance animals going forward.”
Chapman supported the designation of 10 minutes, saying, “Ten minutes of consistent barking from a dog is pretty bad if you’re living next door to it. I mean, I’m talking 10 minutes straight.”
Cummings, who has been vocal about the issue of barking dogs in town, thanked the chief for his work.
“We’re stressing responsible pet ownership and that we want everyone to understand that pets are welcome here in Windham, but you’ve got to take care of them and you’ve got to register them and you’ve got to respond to them. Animals bark for a reason. As the owner, it’s your responsibility to find out why,” she said.
In an update in the search for a person to replace him, interim Town Manager Don Gerrish said the council has interviewed three candidates for the permanent town manager position and plans to bring back one candidate for a second interview later in June.
Gerrish also announced that an open house for the new public works facility will be held Saturday, June 1 from 9 a.m. to noon.
Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at [email protected]
Charles Hawkins speaks during public comment about amendments to the town’s animal control ordinance.