By Michael Howell
At a hearing on Thursday, May 16, the Stevensville Board of Adjustments granted a variance to Genesis House, located at 116 College Street, to allow the reconstruction of the garage within 17 feet of the property line instead of the 20-foot set-back required by the regulations. The current structure is already non-conforming and extends almost four and a half feet over the property line.
The Planning and Zoning Board recommended approval of the variance and neighbors, Larry and Betty Carlson, who own the lot on which the garage currently extends, expressed their agreement with the change. Town Planner Ben Longbottom spoke in favor of the variance request, stating that it would not be possible to rebuild the garage anywhere on the property and be in compliance. Other neighbors also spoke on favor of the variance.
After considering the variance criteria, the Board approved the variance on a 4-0 vote.
The Town Council also heard comments on a request from the Stevensville School District to abandon a small wedge-shaped piece of land along the edge of 3rd Street. The strip of land is eight feet wide at one end and tapers down to nothing at the east end of the street. The school district is requesting the change to accommodate the lease of the land to a federal agency. Confusion over the property lines goes back to conflicting surveys done in 1909 and 1928. No decision was made.
The Council also took public comment on a proposed ordinance change that would allow raising a limited number of rabbits, chickens and other fowl in town. The current ordinance prohibits them.
Public comment was divided on the issue. At least four people strenuously objected to allowing the animals in town. They said the associated noise and smells would create a nuisance. Some questioned whether the ordinance would be enforceable at all.
Those in favor of the ordinance change stressed that the small number of animals being allowed would not create a problem. They noted that dogs, which are allowed, are probably the greatest offenders. It was also argued that the problem was not a certain number of animals but of people who do not properly care for their animals. It was suggested that escalating fines aimed at the animals’ owners might address the situation. One person said that according to her research not a single municipality with 150 miles of Stevensville prohibits chickens, although numbers are regulated.
Town Clerk Stacy Bartlett questioned whether the police should be asked to take on the task of enforcement when they are already overworked handling important duties and more serious crimes. She said that she opposed the change unless an animal control officer was hired.
The proposals are on the agenda for the next Town Council meeting on May 23 at 7 p.m.