Town Meeting In May!
Annual Town Meeting is held on the first Monday of May of each year at a time and place specified in the Annual Town Meeting. The Annual Town Meeting is the legislative authority for the all actions of the municipal government. Town Meeting gives the final authority to appropriate funds for the budget, approved changes to ordinances, and allow the Board of Selectmen authority to proceed with the annual business of the town.
I consider myself fortunate to live in East Boothbay. Maine and part of the reason is because of the neighborly atmosphere of our small village, but if we wanted to start a ceramic business in our location today the Town Planning Board would not allow it. In fact upon reading the ordinances, one realizes that the Town Planning board even prohibits yard sales in East Boothbay, being that "flea market/tentsale" are items on the very long list of prohibited activities. a list that also includes "manufacturing" and "wholesling" and "exploring"- Good God! I can't even imagine what "exploring" is intended to include! But apparently it is allowed as long as there is no earned income involved.
The ordinance also says that if an activity is not listed and the Planning Board decides that it is similar to an activity included on the list, it shall be regulated in the same manner as the listed item. To my knowledge, there are no guidelines for how the planning board is to arrive at their opinions- and if there are guidelines they are to be found somewhere separate from where this declaration is to be found.
Yard sales are a frequent occurrence in East Boothbay. I doubt that those conducting them applied for a permit to conduct "an activity performed for pecuniary gain" three weeks in advance of a planning board meeting, which they then attended so that the planning board could decide if they would grant them permission to conduct a yard sale on their property.If the law is to be followed as written, this is what every person conducting a yard sale would have to do!
The application for a permit to conduct "ANY activity preformed for pecuniary gain" ( in one's home or on one's property) is long and technical and includes all kinds of questions that have little relevance to the intent of the resident seeking to make some additional income through an activity conducted in the privacy of his own home. The ordinance makes it clear by its own words that it is meant to regulate activities which " have minimal customer traffic and use no process or equipment that could alter the residential character of the property or adversely affect neighboring property owners. " That intent is stated in those exact words within the ordinance !
The questions one must answer on the application seem relevant only to a business activity that has a significant impact on the neighbor hood and asks for unnecessary personal information of a person wanting to conduct an income producing activity in the privacy of their own home.
Many specifically targeted subjects of the ordinance are the smallest of micro economy businesses, which includes many of the artists in our community who might occasionally make a sale of their art, perhaps through the Boothbay Art Foundation, conjuring up visions of a future when The Boothbay Art Foundation and other similar venues are raided by inspectors demanding to see the business permits of the Boothbay artists whose work is on display !
Many of the targeted activities of are of a nature, that if it were it not for the intent to earn an income, they would just be normal activities that one does in the home, such as knitting, sewing and baking, painting and engaging on the internet. The words of the town ordinance are "ANY activity performed for pecuniary gain" and since the word "pecuniary" means anything to do with money, even baking for a Church bake sale requires filling out a lengthy and technical application and being present at the Town Planning Board meeting, where in one's life is decided by the governing board of the town.
Now conjure up an image of inspectors raiding your church bake sale and confiscating the apple pies, perhaps leaving the cakes alone, since the interpretation and execution of this ordinance is left entirely up to the arbitrary discretion of the planning board. The conjured images may sound ludicrously extreme but nothing sounds more extreme than the use of the full force of the federal government to go after The Little Sister Of The Poor and threatening to destroy them financially, because the nuns refused, on religious grounds, to be part of the distribution of contraceptives, and that it would take a federal government Supreme Court ruling to resolve the dispute in favor of the Little Sister of The Poor ! A few years ago the suggestion that this could ever happen in the United States would sound straight up ludicrous!
Town Of Boothbay Ordinances That Target The Micro Economy (underlined words are my own emphasis- bold words are emphasized by the town clerk)Home Occupation: Any activity performed for pecuniary gain in a dwelling unit, or other structure accessory to a dwelling unit, or directed from a dwelling unit by one or more residents of that dwelling unit that conforms to all requirements of this Ordinance.
Home Occupation, Homemaker/Office: Occupations including, but not limited to, computer/fax/typewriter worker, investor advice and service, tele-communicator, and dressmaker, that are conducted solely by occupants of the dwelling, have minimal customer traffic and use no process or equipment that could alter the residential character of the property or adversely affect neighboring property owners
Home Occupation, Other: All occupations, including Day Care not included in Home Occupation, Homemaker/Office.The above three lines are clearly intended to target micro-economy activities. The inclusion of the word "solely" in the second paragraph, by contrast excludes "occupations" that are not solely done through the activities of the occupants of the home and so a lot hinges on the interpretation of the word "occupation" relative to the interpretation of the word "solely" and unless the ordinance is challenged through the courts, that interpretation is left solely up to the discretion of the planning board. What is the reason for the curious inclusion of the qualifier "solely" in an ordinance that is otherwise attempting to include every possible activity that could result in "pecuniary gain" ? Ironically Day Care is named but a baby sitter would be exempt since a baby sitter usually engages in their occupation in someone else's home!
Imagine if all of the residents in Boothbay complied with these ordinances! The Town Planning Board would have to meet at least twice a week and of course raise the fees!
The danger of these ordinances is in the fact that they are designed to be arbitrarily enforced and regulated by the Planning Board. The ordinance is filled with obvious but vague sentences such as "The Planning Board will normally approve, approve with conditions or deny Use Applications the first time it considers an application" This states the obvious but defines no measurable parameters. On the other hand general compliance is not expected as is evident in the fact that the Planning Board meets only once a month. The Planning Board could not possibly deal with general compliance to these ordinances on such a sparse schedule and yet these ordinances are on the books and potentially can be arbitrarily used against almost anyone.
These ordinances say that if you want to make an income from your computer, already occupying space in your home, you have to fill our a lengthy application and appear before Planning Board and pay a fee- but if you want to spend your entire day playing video games on your computer- that's copacetic as long as you are not making an income! What's that we hear about video games causing mass shootings? Wouldn't it be better to encourage people to use their computer in an income producing activity instead ?
The town does not need to regulate activities taking place in the privacy of one's home that "have minimal customer traffic and use no process or equipment that could alter the residential character of the property or adversely affect neighboring property owners" That very category needs to be stricken from the Town Ordinances. What is the justification for doing so? Is not such an ordinance a violation of the fundamental guarantee in the United States Constituion- the right to the pursuit of happiness? Is not one's work and the ability to earn an income a major factor in the pursuit of happiness? These ordinates make it a violation for a author to use his own home to write a novel that might potentially earn an income without first getting permission from the town planning board. Where is a budding author supposed to write- at the town library? Perhaps on his mobile computer as long as that computer is not in his own home!
The United States and the State of Maine are founded on the principal of the separation of powers. The legislative branch writes the laws. The administrative branch administers the law, and the judicial branch interprets the laws. If the legislature writes the law in such a way as to give the administrative branch free hand to interpret the law, then the separation of powers is lost. Laws -including town ordinances- need to be written with clarity and applied generally. If a statute or an ordinance is poorly written and the administrative branch tries to correct the poorly written law through administrative policy that does not reflect the written law, and once again the separation of powers is lost. We see this at the national level with Obama attempting to single highhandedly rewrite the Affordable Care Act by telling the insurance companies that they can reinstate policies that the Affordable Care Act has made illegal. The insurance companies responded by saying that they cannot do so, and rightfully so because the law as written and passed by congress prohibits them from re-instating those policy. Administrators do not write laws. It is the job of administration to carry out the law.
There is no reasonable justification for the Town Planning Board regulating activities taking place within the privacy of the home and having no impact on the neighbor hood and yet there are town ordinances providing the Planning Board with just this kind of authority over the lives of Americans residing in the Town of Boothbay Maine. And even if that power is granted to the Planning Board, it makes no sense to then hand those applying for permission to conduct an activity that has no or minimal impact on the neighbor hood to fill out an application suited to an activity that does have an impact on the neighbor hood. Why should it make a difference, for instance, that someone baking a pie, or knitting a hat, or working on a computer is doing so on a waterfront property or on a property completely enclosed by land? Why should an applicant have to provide their tax returns and prove that they do not own the town money just to be able to conduct ANY activity within the privacy of their home that can produce an income? If the applicant owes the town money,
should not the town want to encourage the applicant to develop an income? Is not the demand for one's tax return an unessesary invasion of privacy- as are these ordinances?
And what ever happened to Yankee individualism- which is a large part of what micro economy businesses taking place in the privacy of one's home is all about? The life style of living and working in the same place is one of the great individualist American dreams.
It's time for the people of Boothbay to bring some common sense into their town ordinances! Please join the discussion HERE.
This is a link to an article on occupational licensing in the USA
Licensing can become a powerful tool to limit innovation and competition and act to limit upward mobility........
Occupational licensing has grown significantly since the 1950s, when roughly one out of every 20 workers were required to obtain a government license. Economists Morris Kleiner and Alan Krueger estimate that an astounding one out of every three US workers needs government permission before they are legally allowed to work today. Many of these occupations have traditionally provided low-income Americans with a path to self-sufficiency and upward mobility. By erecting barriers to entry to these occupations, we erect barriers to entry to achieving the American dream.
The article discusses a study of how low-to moderate income jobs are being licensed in the USA- combine that with the trend among states such as Maine of transferring taxpayer dollars to private corporations and capitalists in the "targeted sector" defined as producing "higher than average income" and you have a portrait of an intentionally widened gap between the wealthiest and the rest of the poplulation.