Protecting North Norway’s rural way of life

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NORWAY — The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on a plan to institute a one-year moratorium to protect rural villages in North Norway.

The hearing will be held on Thursday, May 5, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Town Office at 19 Danforth St. The Planning Board has made no recommendation on the plan.

MORATORIUM? — The four Rural Villages that are addressed in the proposed moratorium are indicated in the map of the town's Comprehensive Plan, shown above. The numbers correspond to the blow-ups below.
MORATORIUM? — The four Rural Villages that are addressed in the proposed moratorium are indicated in the map of the town’s Comprehensive Plan, shown above.

Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman said the moratorium would automatically be rescinded on the date of the 2017 annual town meeting, if approved at annual town meeting this June.

The four rural villages affected are Swift Corner, Noble’s Corner, Norway Center and the Chapel District – all in the north end of Norway. The areas can be seen on the Future Land Use Designation Map of Norway in the Norway Comprehensive Plan that was passed in 2004, Corey-Whitman said.

According to the terms of the proposed moratorium, any construction, renovation, or change in use on property within the four rural village areas must strictly adhere to the definition of a home occupation.

Corey-Whitman said a home occupation is defined in the Site Plan Review Ordinance as “an occupation or profession which is customarily conducted on or in a residential structure or property.”

The residential structure or property is further defined in the ordinance as:

  • clearly incidental to and compatible with the residential use of the property and surrounding residential uses; and
  • which employs no more than two persons other than family members residing in the home.

The issue of protecting the historic areas in town was prompted earlier this year by a plan to open a wedding barn on Morse Road, which is within the Swift’s Corner rural village area.

Peter Ulrickson, the potential buyer of a historic 19th century farmhouse at 107 Morse Road, filed a site plan review application last fall to approve a change-of-use request for the property so he could operate a wedding barn.

The weddings would be held in the barn one day per weekend and have no more than 125 guests. The expected route of traffic for guests would be from Greenwood Road to Morse Road.

But a large group of residents expressed concern about the plan, questioning potential issues such as noise and traffic. The application was eventually withdrawn.

Because of that concern and other impacts to the area, some residents asked Corey-Whitman about the possibility of zoning the outlying village areas in North Norway to control commercial ventures that they say threaten the quiet way of life they are used to.

Corey-Whitman said after the December 2015 hearing on the wedding barn that a number of issues had to be resolved before the Planning Board gave permission for it, including whether the business was a home occupation or a commercial venture.

The moratorium would allow officials to take some breathing time to determine potential impacts of future projects on the area, Corey-Whitman said.

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