AUGUSTA — A controversial proposal for a new property maintenance ordinance goes back to city councilors Thursday after officials have scaled back some provisions that drew sharp criticism, including rules about keeping properties free of weeds.

The proposed ordinance would require residents, businesses and other landowners in the city to keep their properties from falling into disrepair or becoming unsafe or unsightly.

It was written primarily in response to residents’ complaints in recent years about some properties being allowed to deteriorate and neither the city nor neighbors having recourse to do anything about property owners who don’t do proper maintenance.

But some residents and city councilors expressed concerns last year soon after the ordinance was proposed that it went too far, could take away private property rights, and could prevent property owners from keeping any unregistered, uninspected motor vehicles on their properties.

A council subcommittee spent at least three meetings making revisions to the ordinance, cutting it down from a 15-page draft to a seven-page document that councilors are scheduled to review Thursday.

The document is so much slimmer primarily because existing city rules and regulations that were initially incorporated into it from other ordinances have been removed from the proposed new ordinance, according to Matt Nazar, development director. So while those existing provisions — such as standards already set in the city’s land use rules — are still in effect, they are no longer part of the new ordinance.

Nazar said combining the old provisions into the new ordinance created unnecessary confusion.

However, other revisions do ease the new regulations imposed by the ordinance.

“There was a pull back from some of the standards proposed initially,” Nazar said.

One change limits regulations on weeds that previously would have applied to the entire city to apply only to the Maine Department of Transportation-defined urban compact area of Augusta. Nazar said that area is generally the built-up part of Augusta, including most of the western part of the city.

The weeds rules require property owners within the urban compact area to keep their properties free of weeds or plant growth in excess of 10 inches. The ordinance proposal defines weeds as all grasses, annual plants and vegetation other than trees, shrubs, cultivated flowers and gardens. Exceptions to that would be made to allow hayfields and pastures “where the owner demonstrates that the affected area is actively managed.” And open lawn or field on a lot bigger than 1 1/2 acres would be allowed to grow back into forest if it is are actively managed.

Other provisions in which the latest rules are different from the original proposal include motor vehicles that are unregistered and uninspected.

The previous ordinance proposal would have banned inoperative or unlicensed motor vehicles, or motor vehicles “in a state of major disassembly, disrepair or in the process of being stripped or dismantled” from being parked, kept or stored on any premises in the city, unless they are in a structure designed and approved for such purposes.

The new proposal would ban motor vehicles that have not been registered or inspected for one year, down from the previous two in city ordinance, from being stored within 150 feet of a public right of way unless the vehicle is garaged or fully buffered from public view by evergreen plantings or properly installed wooden fences.

Nazar said another change to the proposal removed all regulations pertaining to building interiors, other than those involving the structural integrity of buildings.

Councilors are scheduled to discuss the latest draft of the Property Maintenance Ordinance at their 6:30 p.m. meeting Thursday, in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Councilors also are scheduled to discuss a proposal to change the zoning of an area between Leighton Road, Darin Drive and Civic Center Drive from the current Rural River District to the Industrial District. The rezoning, recommended unanimously by the Planning Board, would be done to accommodate a proposed addition to J.S. McCarthy to its printing business at 15 Darin Drive.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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