LISBON – Town Council members want to restrict the power of the Planning Board over worries that it stifles the towns growth and works to forward members own interests.
Council Member and Planning Board Liaison Susan M. Duffy on Wednesday proposed limiting the mandate of the Planning Board after suggesting it is operating too frequently as a policing agency instead of a planning agency.
I would like to see the planning board turn more into a proactive board, she said.
Ms. Duffy also leveled accusations at the Planning Board for being an opaque institution that has approved applications for its own members, like Planning Board Secretary Patrick Madlin, while being slow to grant applications to other residents.
According to Ms. Duffy, Mr. Madlin had his residential site plan application approved regardless of the fact that his property is less than an acre, and he changed the footprint of his house. Town law requires that properties be at least one acre to accommodate housing.
Ms. Duffy said Mr. Madlin would not speak about how his application was approved.
A phone number for Mr. Madlin was not listed and could not be obtained Thursday.
At the Town Councils direction, Code Enforcement Officer Christopher J. Sherwin has until next months council meeting to recommend changes in the towns law that will make the planning board more efficient.
I dont think that a homeowner should have to wait 30 days [to build], said Mr. Sherwin, who is supportive of the plan.
Currently homeowners wanting to build a single family dwelling, an addition on an existing home or a garage are required to fill out a site plan application and clear it with Mr. Sherwin.
Then I make an agenda for the Planning Board and I add [the applicant] to the agenda, and I tell [the Planning Board] everything is in order, said Mr. Sherwin. The Planning Board then approves or rejects the application and returns it to Mr. Sherwin for final approval.
Because of this loop, the Town Council wants to do away with the Planning Boards oversight of residential properties, leaving the entire process with Mr. Sherwin.
Im the one that has state certification, he said, on a residential, I should be able to take care of that myself.
The Planning Board will retain its ability to approve commercial building applications.
The Town Council has also asked Mr. Sherwin to do away with the current law that requires residents own a one acre property before they can build.
Ms. Duffy said the current regulation makes no sense because depending on the actual layout of the property, half that size may be suitable for building and twice that size may not be.
We need to remove anything in there [the law] that is dimensional, she said.
She said Mr. Sherwin should be able to decide if a plot is capable of meeting regulations on water and sewer placement without the Planning Board.
As long as you meet the local law and state setbacks well allow you to build, said Mr. Sherwin of the changes he intends to make.
Most recently, the Planning Board decided to table a request by Ronald L. Bush to put a mobile home on a property he owns that is less than an acre.
That decision means Mr. Bush has to wait 62 days after his application was filed before he can begin building. Under town law, if the Planning Board takes no action over that 62 days, the request is automatically approved.