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Signs of civility in Lumberland; Clarification and compromise mark latest session on zoning

February 29, 2012

The presence of four law enforcement professionals stationed in the George Ross Mackenzie Elementary School gymnasium last Saturday morning was a clear sign of the tension that has built over the past several months as the Town of Lumberland has conducted a series of public sessions on its proposed zoning rewrite. But other than removing one man briefly in response to his repeated disruptions, and gesturing to another to cease doing the same, peace was kept and progress was made.
The February 25 public forum began with supervisor Nadia Rajsz reciting the list of changes made following public hearings conducted on December 14, 2011 and February 17, 2012.

Among those changes was one that appeared to please developer Charles Petersheim, who has been a vocal critic of the process. It reads: “Conservation Subdivision section will be changed from ‘mandatory’ in several districts to ‘preferred’ in all districts for subdivisions over five lots.” Petersheim applauded the change but said there is more work to be done.

While the forum was initially fraught with outbursts, accusations and even cheers, the commotion gradually gave way to a respectful dialogue that seemed to allow for information sharing between town officials and the audience.

Members of the zoning rewrite committee and town board fielded questions and provided clarification on issues related to banners, flags, signs, landscaping, vehicles on properties and more. An explanation of how visible smoke is assessed was offered by code enforcement officer David Sparling, who stressed that the measurements do not affect residents’ ability to use woodstoves or to barbecue in their yards. “We don’t want people burning tires for example,” he added.

Resident Sue Gregg urged people to read the town’s zoning laws from 1998. “Much of the language in the new one is from the old one,” she said. “I’m not saying it’s good or bad, but it wasn’t pulled out of a hat.”

Bruce Worzel and several others raised the issue of private property rights. “I’m totally against any kind of government interference in private property,” said another landowner. Others complained that the town didn’t publicize the process well enough, despite providing the information on its website and advertising in the town’s newspapers of record. Many seemed to prefer notification by regular mail regardless of the cost, and one man suggested establishing an email list of residents.