Three bylaw changes were discussed and approved by the Rochester Planning Board to put forward at the May Annual Town Meeting. One involves amendments to the home business bylaw, another on a sunset provision for site plan reviews and another to increase the size of an industrial district permitted sign. The board voted to recommend the articles for approval.
The changes in the proposed bylaws apply to new businesses, renovations or additions. Existing businesses are grandfathered and will not be affected by the by-law changes, if approved.
“We’re trying to encourage small business in Rochester…life has changed and many people conduct business with a cell phone and a computer and we needed to update the wording of the bylaw,” said Chairman Arnold Johnson.
“We wanted to clean up the wording and make it a simpler process for an applicant,” said Town Planner John Charbonneau.
The proposed home business bylaw changes capped the square footage of a roadside stand, farm structure, storage building or any other accessory structure associated with a home business at 1,000 square feet. The setback for a roadside stand, which is defined as a structure, must be located not less than 25 feet from the edge of the roadway pavement. Current bylaw language is 10 feet from the roadway.
The board stressed that the bylaw change was for new business ventures, not existing businesses.
“We are looking to the future and want to be proactive, not reactive to proposals that come before us,” said Mr. Charbonneau.
Resident Craig Parker asked the board about roadside stands and asked about people who might put out a table with vegetables or flowers. Mr. Charbonneau said that a table out front of a residence was not a structure as defined in the bylaw being proposed, only structures associated with a new business.
The proposed bylaw also addresses parking issues associated with a home business, capping the number of autos parked outside of a driveway at three vehicles. “We’re thinking about, perhaps a therapist, or someone giving art lessons in their home…to avoid neighborhood parking issues, we cap the number of vehicles to three,” said Mr. Charbonneau.
According to Mr. Charbonneau, the parking restriction does not apply to a roadside stand because cars would come and go and not be parked for an extended time period as in the case of a client coming for an hour session or by an employee of the business who would be parked for an eight hour period.
The second article recommended for approval at town meeting is the sunset provision for site plan review. Once an applicant receives an approval of a site plan review from the planning board, it would expire in two years if not acted upon.
The third article was a correction in the current bylaw addressing the size of a sign permitted in the industrial district, requiring a special permit for a sign with a total area of more than 50 square feet.
In other business, the board displayed a colored map outlining the proposed village zoning overlay district and asked those attending if they had any questions about it.
Resident Bob Larkin asked about the goals of the overlay district and future public meetings on the issue. Mr. Johnson explained that Rochester was one of the “hot spots” in growth in the state and that the board felt that they needed to plan for the future.
“This came out of that…we need to plan for the future to keep with the rural nature of our community and not just react to proposals that come to us,” said Mr. Johnson.
The board approved a mailing to those residents and businesses in the proposed over-lay district with the boundary dimensions shown, including a color map outlining the areas proposed for development.
By Joan Hartnett-Barry