OWLS HEAD — The Owls Head Selectboard voted unanimously Aug. 2 to place a warrant article on the Aug. 30 annual town meeting for an ordinance change to allow event centers on properties of more than 15 acres.

But whether voters get to consider the matter Aug. 30 is not certain. State law requires the Planning Board to hold a public hearing prior to the town meeting, but the Planning Board chair says nothing can be scheduled until at least when the board meets Aug. 9.

The attorney for Christina and Jeff Woodman, who want to have an event/gathering center at their Ash Point Farm at 35 Ash Point Drive, said she would go to court to have it order the Planning Board to meet if it refuses to hold the hearing before the annual town meeting.

Attorney Kristin Collins told the Selectboard she expects she could quickly get an injunction from the court to order the Planning Board to hold the hearing.

Planning Board Chair Russell Wolfertz denied the claim that the board was trying to delay the project, and told the Selectboard he could not speak for the entire membership. The Planning Board will meet next Monday, and decide whether and when to hold a public hearing. He said there may also be a discussion on whether two Planning Board members should recuse themselves since they signed a petition to get the event center ordinance on the warrant.

The petition was submitted to the town office last week. The petition was signed by 106 residents — more than the 95 required to have items placed on a town meeting warrant.

Selectboard member Linda Post noted she signed the petition, but that doesn’t mean she supports the change, only that she believes it should be placed before residents for them to decide.

The town received an opinion July 29 from attorney Richard Flewelling from the Maine Municipal Association, saying the petition met the law and that the matter should be placed on the Aug. 30 town meeting warrant.

Wolfertz renewed his concern that approval of the ordinance would allow event centers to potentially open on 30 lots across the town, thus opening residential areas to commercial operations. He said the Planning Board should notify abutters of all those properties before a public hearing is held.

Collins said notifying abutters was not necessary, but Wolfertz said he was going to show respect to residents of the community so they would know what passage of the ordinance would mean.

Jeff Woodman said, after the meeting, he attended more than a dozen Planning Board meetings and several Selectboard meetings over the past year-and-a-half, and no progress was made in getting an ordinance before voters. That is why the decision was made to go the petition route.

Collins said in a July 27 letter accompanying the petition that the proposed ordinance conforms to the town’s comprehensive plan. She maintains that an existing ordinance makes it clear that events are allowed on larger farms to allow them to stay afloat financially. She said in the letter that the ordinance amendment would broaden the uses.

Collins notes the request is time sensitive, because approval would be needed at the town meeting for the couple to book events for next summer.

The property is 32 acres.

The couple originally requested last year a waiver to allow them to have events such as weddings on the farm, which is located in a rural residential zone.

In August 2020, the board voted 3-2 — with Ken Wexler and Wolfertz voting against — to approve the Woodmans’ requests.

Wexler, however, appealed that approval to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which upheld his appeal.

Since then, the Woodmans sought to get the zoning adjusted.

The petition details what would be allowed at event centers under the proposed ordinance change. Events could run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with cleanup continuing until 11 p.m. One toilet for every 50 people would be required. The centers would need to meet noise and parking requirements already in place in town.

Owls Head has 1,442 registered voters although annual town meetings typically don’t attract far more than 100 people.