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5/15/2013 2:00:00 PM
Potential Lawsuit Follows Edgecomb Town Meeting
Edgecomb resident and former planning board member Jarryl Larson speaks against the zoning changes. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
Edgecomb resident and former planning board member Jarryl Larson speaks against the zoning changes. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
By Dominik Lobkowicz

Edgecomb resident and former planning board member Jarryl Larson is planning a class action lawsuit against the town regarding a zoning change that passed at the Edgecomb Town Meeting on May 11.

However, according to Larson, she has not yet consulted an attorney regarding what legal grounds she may have for such a lawsuit.

The change was an amendment to the town's Land Use Ordinance that combined Marine District I and Marine District II into a single zone, Marine District. Under the new grouping, both areas now have a two-acre minimum lot size.

Marine District I, which previously covered most of the town's coastal areas inland from the shore to Cross Point, Mill, and River Roads, already had a minimum lot size of two acres. Marine District II, which runs inland of the center of those roads by 1000 feet, only had a 1 acre minimum.

Larson, who is among the property owners affected by the change, spoke out at town meeting against the proposed ordinance.

She said the Edgecomb Ordinance Review Committee's public notice in the newspapers did not provide enough specific information about the zoning changes.

Larson asked the residents to defeat the zoning change and for the ordinance review committee to bring it back after all the property owners had been individually notified.

"I will personally pay for notification of every property owner that will impacted," Larson said. The change to minimum lot size is a "taking of rights" from the property owners, she said.

Review committee chair Barry Hathorne said the reason for the ordinance change is to help keep the town rural.

"It's not a taking, it's trying to make our ordinances more balanced and more equal to more people," he said.

Others at the meeting spoke in favor of keeping the town rural via the zoning change, while others joined Larson in opposition of the increased minimum lot size.

The final vote on the article passed 31 for, 16 against.

After the meeting, Larson said she intends to file a lawsuit against the town over the matter, but until she consults an attorney she has not identified clearly what her legal grounds for the lawsuit will be.

"I'm calling it, right now, a taking - an unauthorized taking of land rights," she said. People who have larger lots and may have planned to sell off smaller parcels when a loved one passes may not be able to do that anymore, she said.

Larson said she is already in the process of collecting names and contact information of all the property owners affected by the zoning change so she can notify them and ask them to join in her suit.

"My biggest complaint is not the act of rezoning," Larson said. "My biggest complaint is they rezoned a huge amount without notifying anyone."

Right now, Larson admits, the town is not required to make notification of property owners individually, but she said she would like to change that process and have the zoning change be brought back for a vote after all the property owners are notified in that manner.

Even if the suit is not successful, the property owners, "will know somebody did something to them, without notifying them," she said.

"I just think it was wrong, so if I have to make it right I will," Larson said. "You're not changing two lots, you're not changing five lots. You're changing miles."

Larson said she believes that she and the other owners have a 30-day window to file a suit.

Also after the meeting, Hathorne said he does not believe the ORC did anything wrong in its notification process.

"We went through what we need to do," he said, adding no one attended the public hearing on the zoning change.

Hathorne said he thinks notifying every affected property owner of an ordinance change or even identifying what "affected" means is too much of a burden on a committee.

"That's why public notices are required," he said.

Hathorne acknowledged Larson's feelings on the issue, saying he would appreciate individual notification if his property were affected because people can miss things in the papers.

"I think if I was on the other side of the fence, I'd definitely want to be notified. I understand that," he said.

Even so, "there is a certain responsibility on the individual to know what's going on," he said.

"As far as taking something away from somebody, towns do it all the time," Hathorne said. As it did in Edgecomb, zoning changes go to the legislative body of the town - the residents - for approval, he said.

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