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Should Boothbay have a Town Charter?

I have been trying to determine when Boothbay ordinances governing businesses in the home were changed. Unlike state statutes, adaptations in Boothbay town ordinances do not have dates. I believe significant changes were made between 2007 and 2014. This  speculation is based on the discrepancy between the introductory paragraphs describing the governing philosophy of the ordinances, and the actual zoning ordinances, lending the impression that they were written at different historical times.

The introductory description expresses a reasonable and pro-economic approach to policy which is not consistent the governing ordinances which prohibit the growth of home occupations by limiting non-family "employees or subcontractors" to two or three. I cannot find the words stating that the ordinances are intended for home occupations having little effect on the neighbor hood.

In January 2014 I went to the town office to pick up a DBA form and learned about the restrictive ordinances governing businesses in the home. I reported my experience on this blog, and in the process recorded the language of the ordinance, as it was at that time. It is probable that the words used to identify activities done for pecuniary gain, in the privacy of one's home, "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", were removed during the May 2014 amendment process. The absence of these words in the current record is likely the result of the method used to change the town ordinances, which is to delete the language, leaving no record of what once existed.
  • This brings us to the first point in favor of creating a Town Charter. An argument for such a charter is that a charter could establish a method of revising the ordinances based on the method used for revising state statutes, which record the date of every change and strikes through deleted language so that one can see what was deleted. Accurate historical records provide future generations an understanding of what occurred and enable voters to identify the policies supported by politicians.
 In 2013, the Town of Boothbay shut down boatbuilder, David Simpson at considerable financial loss to the builder all because a couple of neighbors complained about noise. Ironically, or perhaps intentionally, Mr Simpson is pictured in the Boothbay Register working on his roof, which he was allowed to do while he was not allowed to build his boats. There is likely a similar level of noise associated with repairing a roof or mowing the lawn as there is in building a boat. It was the decision of the board of selectmen to give priority to a neighbor's complaint over Mr Simpson's livelihood. The decision didn't necessarily resolve the neighbors noise issue, but it did close down Mr Simpson's business. Mr Simpson had been building boats on his property for thirty years and should have been grandfathered in, but, as reported, there is an ordinance that says if the business is locally inactive for one year, it cancels the grandfathered status. Mr Simpson has spent one year away and so the town claimed his grandfathered status had been cancelled. I haven't read that ordinance. nor am I a lawyer. However it is general knowledge that there is a governing principal that says municipal ordinances cannot override state law. I quoted the state grandfathering law in a recent blog post. or you can read the complete statute here.

The story of the Boothbay town selectmen closing down Mr Simpson's boat building business is now a part of the internet record. Any one considering setting up a boat building enterprise in Maine will come across it. Boat building is one of a maritime village's year round occupations.

In 2015, the town started planning a new comprehensive plan for the area. Survey results produced this response:

“Non-residents were much more strongly in favor of protecting residential areas from nonresidential
development . . . .”
This defines a fundamental class conflict. Is Boothbay to be re-prioritized as a community for retirement and vacation homes, or will it be a community that welcomes and accommodates those seeking a year round residence allowing an individualistic life style- such as that of the designer craftsmen, including ship builders like Mr Simpson?

Current ordinance policies seem to be designed to limit the growth of the latter class of citizens. A contributing factor in such a direction may be Boothbay's close proximity to the taxpayer subsidized city state of MRRA. 'City state' is a shortened term I use to signify the municipality which serves as an instrument of the state- a new legal concoction invented by the Maine Legislature. As I wonder how any group can act as a legal representative of the town of Boothbay if the town is not a municipal corporation, I also wonder how a municipal corporation can be chartered by the Maine Legislature to serve as an instrument of the state. My understanding is that the reason for forming a municipal corporation is to authorize a legal entity which can represent the municipality.

A municipal corporation is a city, town, village, or 
borough that has governmental powers. 
A municipality is a city, town,village, or, in some states, a borough. A corporation is an entity capable of conducting business. Cities, towns, villages, and some boroughs are called municipal corporations because they have the power to conduct business with the private sector.
Generally, the authority to govern the affairs within a 
state rests with the state legislature, the governor, 
and the state judicial system. However, states give 
localities limited powers to govern their own areas. 
The origin of the municipal corporation varies from state to state. Municipal corporations are given the 
power to govern through either the state constitution or state statutes, or through the legislative grant of a 
charter.The Free Dictionary

A reason to form a municipality serving as an instrument of the state is so that the local community can be subsidized by state and federal tax payer dollars, all of which are invested in the municipal boundaries of the town of MRRA. If the town of MRRA is a regional development authority, so is every other town, since this attribution has no justification beyond the alleged trickle down effect. Statistics show that incomes in regions surrounding the town of MRRA are on par with the rest of the state, while incomes in the town of MRRA, a major target of Pine Tree Zone tax exemptions, soar above its neighbors. This is statistically documented in my book, Public Private Relationships and the New Owners of the Means of Production.

The term "economic development" has joined the club of other terms, such as "public benefit" and "job creation" to be used as a rubric under which all kinds of disparate activities can be collectively and uniformly classified. When considering the use of the term "economic development" it is important to distinguish if its meaning pertains to a development corporation, which can be in the form of government, public-private, or private,- or does "economic development" represent a service assisting the overall economy of a community - a good example of that being found on the website for the maritime town of Belfast, Maine

Discussion to be continued in next blog post- click Follow to keep updated,

UPDATE At the May 2014, the town voted to allow David Simpson to continue his business:

There were other questions about the zoning changes proposed by the planning board, including allowing mineral extraction from the Industrial Park district, building warehouses in the commercial district and extending structure height along Country Club Road. Article 28 also passed which changes the zoning ordinances in a residential district to allow local boat builder David Stimson to resume his business under the definitions of commercial fishing and maritime activities. Boothbay Register

UPDATE: Since writing the above, I found Boothbay ordinances from 2008, The restrictions on the number of employees to two or three is included- but does not include subcontractors. The language stating that any activity done for pecuniary gain  in the privacy of the home requires approval from the selectmen, and the language stating that the requirements apply to activities which have little effect on the neighborhood, are not found. The language states with specificity that " Home Occupations The Town should allow residents to operate small businesses and services in their homes as long as measures are taken to minimize adverse impacts on neighboring property owners from noise, traffic, parking, odors, hazardous materials, pollution, lighting and electrical or electronic interference." and "10.11.3 Home occupations shall not be permitted within a mobile home park except those conducted by occupants entirely within a mobile home with no direct customer contact within the park.". The language I came across in 2014 was written in such a way as to apply to anyone in Boothbay selling items on Ebay or creating a product to be sold in another location which is inclusive of such activities as backing a cake or knitting a hat, writing a book or an article, which would be otherwise allowed if not done for pecuniary gain, making the act of earning a living the violation but not the activity in and of itself.


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