If a resident or builder appeals a decision made by Raymond’s Planning Board, the case will now be heard in Superior Court rather than at the Raymond Zoning Board of Appeals.

Article 5, which changed the administrative process regarding appeals to Planning Board decisions, was one of seven changes adopted to the town ordinances by Raymond residents at the annual town meeting on June 7.

The article was the only ordinance change to provoke major discussion in an otherwise quiet meeting, at which residents also approved a $12 million budget.

Appeals to decisions made by the Code Enforcement Office will continue to be heard by the Board of Appeals.

The ordinance change drew criticism from a few residents, including Barbara Lovell, who wrote a letter to the editor on the same topic to this newspaper in May.

The community would prefer to have their claims heard by “a jury of peers,” Lovell told the Selectboard and residents, “rather than being pushed to a judge in Superior Court with no real feeling for the community.”

Summer resident John Ewalt also opposed the ordinance change, saying “the costs and inconvenience of bringing a case to Portland” could be prohibitive to some residents.

Because the Zoning Board of Appeals meets in the evenings and its meetings are broadcast online, the process is “more transparent,” Ewalt said.

Planning Board Member Paul O’Neil sympathized with the objections, saying that while typically he is in favor of keeping issues out of the courts, “the problem in this process is the Planning Board has a specific set of legal guidelines to follow, and the Zoning Board of Appeals does not have the same restrictions.”

O’Neill said he would “rather keep it in the community, but it’s not possible with different boards with different rules.”

In terms of town governance, according to Code Enforcement Officer Chris Hanson, it’s not a good practice to have a board of the town office overseeing another board.

As well, the process is “exhaustive to Raymond resources,” Hanson said, because the town must hire attorneys to represent both the Planning Board and the Board of Appeals.

Hanson said the town is “not trying to take anyone’s rights away,” but the change is “a better way to handle Planning Board decisions.”

A clear majority voted in favor of the ordinance change. The vote was called by Chairman Mike Reynolds and announced by election moderator Charlie Cragin without a count.

In voting on the budget, residents approved $6,800 for the Loon Echo Land Trust for the purchase of the Raymond Community Forest, a 350-acre parcel in North Raymond on Conesca Road. The land is set to be purchased from Hancock Land Company this summer.

At the end of the meeting, Selectboard member Teresa Sadak publically thanked Chairman Mike Reynolds, who is retiring after 12 years on the board.

“Thank you for your energy, patience, knowledge and thank you for all you have contributed,” said Sadak.

There are no contested races in the municipal elections set for June 14, where residents will also vote on the $43.08 million budget set by Regional School Unit 14.

Voting will take place at the Jordan Small Middle School Gymnasium from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Election moderator Charlie Cragin leads Raymond residents at the annual town meeting June 7. 

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