VASSALBORO — Earmarking money toward building sidewalks in the east village area and revising shoreland zoning rules are a pair of local issues up for public comment hearings this week before voters weigh in on the Nov. 8 election ballot.

The Board of Selectmen will hold the hearings Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Town Office.

Residents will vote on a local ballot item that proposes using town surplus funds and accepting state grant money to pay for a 2018 sidewalk project that would create a “safer passage” in the area of the east village, Town Manager Mary Sabins said.

Some residents like to walk to the store or to the town grange, Sabins said, and “right now they’re walking in the road.”

The state Department of Transportation is planning to rebuild Route 32 from South China to Winslow, which is how the town would get state money for the project. The state would pay for 80 percent of the project while the town would use $58,600 in surplus funds for the sidewalk costs, which would cover its 20 percent share of the project and hold off any effects on tax rates.

The Board of Selectmen voted 2-1 to put the proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot, while the Budget Committee voted in favor of placing it on the ballot 7-3.

Residents previously voted 63-52 at a 2014 Town Meeting against an article that would have approved $50,000 of surplus money to build the sidewalk.

Residents will also vote on a ballot question that revises the shoreland zoning ordinance.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection changed its standard form of measurement of structures in the past year from using area and volume to using a building footprint, which is the area the first floor of the whole structure covers that is visible from an aerial point of view.

Previously, towns would measure a building by its volume and square footage, said Vassalboro Code Enforcement Officer Richard Dolby, though that could sometimes get tricky depending on the architectural features of the building, such as its roof.

“The combination of area and volume have been a little hard to keep your fingers on,” he said.

The proposed change in measurement could mean increased options for those who want to expand their homes. The state is allowing a 30 percent maximum expansion, as it did in the past, but Vassalboro has historically only allowed a 15 percent expansion. The town is now proposing to align itself with the state standard of 30 percent.

Dolby said the state changes could also allow homeowners to take advantage of foundation space. Vassalboro has strictly regulated foundation additions, Dolby said, allowing homeowners to use foundation space as a basement for things like storage or furnaces.

The Planning Board has taken a close look at the state proposals and how they may affect the bodies of water in the town, Dolby said.

In addition, the proposed changes also include handing over regulation of timber harvesting to the Maine Bureau of Forestry. Now, Dolby regulates the town’s timber harvesting, but he said the bureau will be “more adept at enforcing those regulations.”

The ordinance also proposes removing language about seasonal conversions, since such language is already covered in state plumbing code, Dolby said. Homeowners by the shoreline can only convert their homes to year-round residences if they install full septic systems.

Madeline St. Amour – 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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