Bob Bittar’s proposal to rezone seven lots in Readfield, including two of his, is unlikely to make it on the November ballot and might not go to voters at all.

The Readfield Planning Board conducted a three-hour public hearing Wednesday night on the issue and will reconvene Sept. 25, said Town Manager Eric Dyer. There was no vote taken Wednesday.

Bittar wants his property rezoned in hopes of hosting regular concerts in his recently constructed barn at 26 Millstream Road and inviting the public.

In the meantime, he continues to hold free concerts there under his home occupancy permit.

Bittar submitted both an application to the Planning Board to have the rural residential area rezoned to rural and presented a petition to selectmen asking for the same change.

Selectmen referred the petition to the Planning Board for a recommendation since it is considering the application for the same thing.

“The processes are effectively merging at this point,” said Dyer on Thursday. “The Planning Board needs to offer recommendation to the selectboard.”

Dyer said that would be likely followed by an opinion by the town’s attorney, Stephen Langsdorf, and then selectmen would decide whether the rezoning issue would make it to the ballot.

“The timeline for getting a petition approved on the ballot is five weeks before the actual election,” Bittar said. “If the selectboard doesn’t do it right away, it won’t be on the ballot at all.”

He also said he understood that the selectboard would be considering whether to revoke his home occupancy permit for the property, which was issued in July.

“I’m sleeping there every night,” said Bittar, who also has homes in Monmouth and Florida.

His property dispute with the town goes back at least five years.

Bittar received a letter from the town’s code enforcement officer last month that said the occupancy certificate was for single-family residential use.

“Use for concerts and the other information about this that you have provided and publicized through the newspapers, correspondence, and social media, make it abundantly clear that what you propose is not allowed under the Land Use and other ordinances of the Town of Readfield,” wrote Gary Quintal.

Last week’s concert, however, brought no immediate enforcement response from town officials.

Prior to that the town had ordered a Aug. 18 concert canceled, and Bittar did so.

Langsdorf said Thursday that if the rezoning proposal is put on the ballot, “it seems unlikely it would be November. It could be either a special meeting or the (annual) Town Meeting in June.”

Langsdorf said he will be researching whether there is “a significant question as to whether this proposal violates the Comprehensive Plan and is spot zoning.”

Spot zoning is rezoning particularly for the benefit of one owner and is isolated the from the zones around it, Langsdorf said, adding that the state’s highest court has ruled against spot zoning. However, he also said, “there are natural changes in land uses and other changes why it’s appropriate to change zones.”

The town’s Land Use Ordinance states, “The purpose of the rural district designation is to ensure that proposed development and land uses are compatible with the preservation of Readfield’s open, rural character and are protective of sensitive natural resources and visual/scenic quality. . . The rural district also accommodates certain commercial and light industry uses and strives to maintain a development pattern of mixed, low density use while protecting critical natural and scenic resources.”

Langsdorf also said, “Part of the issue here is that this zoning change (Bittar) is asking for allows heavy industrial uses, hotels, motels. bars, sludge spreading. There is a significant question as to whether it is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.”

Among the items submitted in writing to the Planning Board Wednesday was a letter from Jerry Bley, an abuttor, whose property is on Giles Road.

“As someone whose family lives a few hundred yards away from Mr. Bittar’s property and the area proposed for rezoning, I am forced to seriously weigh the pros and the cons, and in this matter I believe the benefits to the community outweigh the risks, provided that the Planning Board exercises thoughtful review authority,” Bley wrote in part. “We want to encourage, not discourage, those with new and different ideas on improving our community.”

Bittar, 78, has long sought permission to offer music at the site, submitting an application to the Planning Board at one point to operate a town event and community center. He later withdrew that application after some neighbors and other residents voiced opposition March 1 at a public hearing.

Bittar’s property is in the rural residential district, which “accommodates low density residential use, agriculture and forestry operations which are compatible with the preservation of Readfield’s rural character, and which are protective of sensitive natural resources and scenic/visual quality,” according to the town’s Land Use Ordinance.”

“I have a very difficult time understanding what he’s doing,” said Matt Nazar, whose property is some 600-700 feet from Bittar’s barn.

He said Bittar has proposed having a number of different activities there, including a children’s theater, an event center, a restaurant and a pub. Nazar, who spoke at the Planning Board hearing Wednesday, said he can hear the music and activity during the concerts.

“It feels commercial in nature in a district that is residential,” Nazar said on Thursday. “I don’t think a commercial activity is appropriate on Mill Stream Road.”

Dyer said that the town will be putting up all information about Bittar’s application online.

“It’s a compelling public interest,” he said. “There’s a lot of folks interested in this, and it was specifically requested.”

Dyer said town officials are assembling the record and that it is likely to be on town’s website early next week.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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