WINSLOW — The Town Council heard public comment on a longstanding zoning issue, during the public hearing portion of a meeting held virtually Monday evening.

Abutters on Lee and Marie streets were notified by certified mail in late February that land owner Steve Martin requested to change a portion of Tax Map 13, Lot 115. That portion is described as lots 87, 88 and 89 in the Dunbar Acres subdivision from high density residential to mixed-use zoning.

“This is being brought back as it has been changed significantly since the first time it was brought before the council,” Town Manager Erica LaCroix said.

Martin wants to change the zoning to build a garage for his business, S B Martin Excavation, and put construction vehicles on the lot.

The Town Council initially voted twice to approve the zoning change last fall, but pushback from residents during public hearings brought the topic back to the table. The council has delayed the ordinance every meeting since October. Different wording of the ordinance has come and gone. At one point, the ordinance called for a contract zone, but now it is back to the original mixed-use language.

The Winslow Planning Board attended Monday’s meeting in an attempt to solidify understanding of the proposed project. The Planning Board will come up with a recommendation for the council at its April 5 meeting, then the council will read the board’s recommendation and vote on the proposal April 12. If the vote is to approve, the final reading would be in May.

Abutter Stephen Chapman asked why the zoning change is from Steve Martin and not C&L Real Estate, like when the ordinance came before the council the first time. Chapman asked if the property was sold.

“The property has changed hands,” Code Enforcement Officer Adam Bradstreet confirmed. “Steve Martin owns the property.”

Chapman said he’s owned his property for nearly 40 years and “is not for it.” Attorney Gina Turcotte, representing abutter Marcia Stetson, said the area has always been residential.

“Mr. Martin’s request to zone those three lots will trigger a future request to rezone the rest of the lots on that property,” Turcotte said. “If the town makes a decision this year to change course and to change status quo, then the town’s decision and the rezoning will directly impact the value of our client’s home, as it sits within 20 feet of the entrance of Mr. Martin’s property.”

Ben Stafford, a Lee Street resident, said he is “against any rezoning. … Any rezoning from residential would be inappropriate.”

Stetson said Martin previously told her last September that he would put in eight houses with a pump station and she wants to “leave the business out of it.”

Chuck Lambert, who formerly owned the land and still owns land in the area, expressed disappointment in the neighbor’s opposition.

“Are we really going to go back 300 years?” Lambert said in regards to a neighbor’s recounting of the neighborhood’s history. “I don’t know how you can do anything.”

Town Attorney William A. Lee III raised the possibility that part of another lot may need to be rezoned, and that the Planning Board should look at that issue.

“I think it’s very important it goes back to the Planning Board to sort out all of the issues with these properties,” Town Council Chairman and District 4 Councilor Ray Caron said, “and so that it is done in a deliberate way.”

The council voted down the old proposal from C&L Real Estate for the contract zone, but the mixed-use proposal will continue its course through the Planning Board and council.

Martin later said he “wants to do this the right way, the legal way.”

TOWN OFFICE REOPENING

The Winslow Town Office has been closed to the public since early December due to the pandemic. Town officials have worked from the office, offering curbside service to residents.

LaCroix said office staff intends to reopen the office with a cautious approach on March 15. The town will release additional details this week.

OTHER BUSINESS

The council took final votes to:

• Authorize LaCroix to purchase a second new ambulance for the Winslow Fire Department.

• Renew municipal funding with the Central Maine Growth Council in the amount of $26,761.

• Authorize LaCroix to enter into a contract with Wright-Pierce Engineers to design a replacement sewer system for the Sunset Heights Development.

• Authorize LaCroix to enter into a contract with Comprehensive Land Technologies Inc. to clear trees along the sewer line from Lithgow Street to Chaffee Brook.

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