Vassalboro Board of Selectmen’s Meeting and Public Hearings
Minutes of the Meeting
September 8, 2016
Members Present: Rob Browne, Lauchlin Titus, and Phil Haines
Others Present: Mary Sabins, Mary Grow, Patrick Adams, Charlie Hartman, Jon Blumberg, Stephen Assante, Holly Weidner, Janet Babb, Simone Antworth, Lori Ferguson, Al Roy, Bill Pullen, Roxanne Pullen, Sylvia Michaud, Helen LaFleur, Vivian Flamm, Nicholas Scott, David St. Pierre, Boyce Ainslie, Russ Marquis, Philip Innes, Tracye Fortin, David Fortin, Linette Gamache, Ray Breton, Mike Vashon, Carleen Cote, James Jurdak, Denise Gidney, Scott Stearns, D. Bourassa, Greg Seamans, Sarah Sugden, Dick Phippen, Steve Jones, Ginny Brackett, Doug Phillips, John Phillips, Sally Butler, Code Officer Dick Dolby, and a few other members of the public who came late and did not sign the attendance roster.
1. Shoreland Zoning Ordinance Public Hearing - Chairman Titus called the public hearing on the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance Revisions to order at 6:00 p.m. He introduced the subject matter and explained that the Selectmen had asked the Planning Board to work on this ordinance revision project. He then turned the discussion over to Planning Board Chairman Virginia Brackett who proceeded to give a detailed summary of the proposed changes to be made to the ordinance. She explained that the State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection has made recommendations for ordinance changes and each town will need to consider making revisions to their Shoreland Zoning Ordinance. Chairman Brackett stated that the changes being proposed are considered a relaxation of the current rules relating to expansion of an existing structure in the Shoreland zone. Expansion will be based on the footprint of the house and the distance from the water. The further back from the water, the more expansion will be allowed. Foundations will no longer increase the footprint. Ginny also addressed a variety of questions from the audience members including such topics as the definition of a non-conforming lot, setback variances, forestry issues in the Shoreland Zone will now be handled by the state forestry division, how height is measured on a building, among other questions. Once it appeared the audience had exhausted their questions of the Planning Board Members, Chairman Lauchlin Titus declared the public hearing closed at 6:40 p.m. and thanked everyone for their questions and attendance.
The Planning Board then stepped down from the head table where they had been seated and left the building. The head table in the room was regrouped for the next public hearing on the proposed sidewalks in the East Village area. MDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager Patrick Adams, and Conservation Commission Member/Sidewalk Safety Plan Advocate Holly Weidner took places at the head table in front of the audience to field questions from the group.
2. Sidewalk Article Public Hearing – At 6:41 p.m., Chairman Titus opened the public hearing on the sidewalk article that will appear as a referendum question at the polls on November 8th during the Presidential Election. He gave a background summary on the sidewalk issue and stated that the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) is planning a rebuild of Rt. #32 in 2018 or 2019, and this vote on sidewalks is the town’s last opportunity for several years because the State MDOT has a five-year moratorium on opening the road after a rebuild. The town needs to decide now if it wants to redeem the federal and state grant opportunity for 80% funding of the sidewalk project. The 20% town match amount, or $58,600 as we now know it, was not available for the annual town meeting in June. That is why we are conducting this as a referendum question in November. MDOT needs our commitment to the project so they can move forward with their work schedule and a design of placement of the sidewalks. Chairman Titus also stated that the Budget Committee has reviewed this article and has approved the concept by a split vote of 7-3. A question was then asked about the surplus balance and was it sufficient to take this money from surplus as proposed. Selectman Haines stated that the last audited balance was about $1.2 million, and a sufficient surplus balance exists. Chairman Titus stated that the Budget Committee had discussed considering this $58,600 amount requested from surplus as part of the annual $150K taken from surplus to reduce the tax commitment when preparing next year’s budget. Much discussion was given about the width of the existing road in the East Vassalboro neighborhood, and whether there would be enough room to safely put sidewalks in the area. MDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager Patrick Adams stated that he felt a majority of the project can be completed within the existing layout. He further stated that the funds named in the warrant article will design and build the plan. There will be no cost overrun for the town due to the language in the article that caps the town’s contribution at $58,600, and MDOT will keep the project within budget, even if it means reducing the scope of the project. Patrick stated that this project could never be done as cheaply again as the Town can do right now by combining costs as part of the State’s rebuild project. He estimated a savings of $45K - $60K by combining the projects. Another question was asked about winter maintenance and if the town would be required to plow the sidewalks. Mr. Adams stated that sidewalk maintenance becomes the town’s responsibility for 20 years, and that clearing the sidewalks will be required. Chairman Titus stated that this sidewalk clearing requirement was new information to the Selectmen today; earlier, they had the impression from meetings with MDOT that clearing the sidewalks in the winter was optional. When asked the cost of this maintenance, Chairman Titus stated no information was available today but the Selectmen would try to gather that information and make it available within the next month before the vote in November. Several people spoke in favor of the sidewalks saying a safe place to walk in the neighborhood was needed, while others in the room stated they felt the sidewalks were not necessary and the money spent would not benefit all the people in town, while still others cited the lack of maintenance on the deteriorated sidewalks in the North Village area. Selectman Rob Browne told the group that he is opposed to this sidewalk project. He lived on busy Rt. #201 as a child and learned to cope with traffic. He stated that he doesn’t think the proposed sidewalks will be cleared of snow in the winter, as the town will not spend money on sidewalk snow removal equipment. He expressed concern about the effects of the sidewalks on the business owners in the village area, and possible loss of property by homeowners to make room for the sidewalks. He stated that the $58,600 cost of the sidewalk project will have an impact on the town, and the money used from savings may equal the cost of a teacher. He would rather spend surplus money to benefit more townspeople, rather than just East Vassalboro residents. He expressed concern that there is no design plan, and he wants more information about where the sidewalks will be located before he votes on the matter. Selectman Browne stated that sidewalk advocate Holly Weidner has done a great job writing the grant application and all the work she has put into this proposal, but he just doesn’t agree with her on this issue, and he does not plan to vote for this issue. Mr. Adams added that the $58,600 is for plan design and construction. If this amount is approved by the voters, as they enter into the design phase with MDOT, the engineers and the town may find no correct design that satisfies. Patrick stated that the MDOT engineers could design the project with the Town as active participants, and the Town can decide not to move forward if a satisfactory design cannot be established. Sensing that the extended conversation and comments from the public were winding down, Chairman Titus asked the attendees if anyone had any new questions or information to add. Hearing none, Chairman Titus closed the public hearing at 8:15 p.m.
3. Call the Selectmen’s meeting to order – After much of the attendees from the public hearings cleared the room and conversation settled, Chairman Titus called the Selectmen’s meeting to order at 8:25 p.m.
4. Minutes – On a motion made by P. Haines, seconded by R. Browne, the Board voted unanimously to accept the minutes of the 8/8/16 and the 8/25/16 meetings as written.
5. Jan Clowes had requested a meeting with the Selectmen to discuss possible renegotiation of the Historical Society lease agreement, but she did not appear at the meeting tonight. The Selectmen tabled this agenda item until the next meeting, or when Jan is able to attend a meeting.
6. Shoreland Zoning Ordinance Certification – On a motion made by P. Haines, seconded by R. Browne, the Board voted unanimously to sign the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance Certification that informs the Town Clerk of the exact words of the Ordinance that will be proposed for adoption to the voters in November and to make copies of the ordinance available to the public upon request.
7. Special Referendum Election Warrant – The Board and Sabins worked together to adjust some of the language in the explanatory note of the sidewalk article #3 to clarify that the sidewalk project will be done in conjunction with an MDOT project in the future. The exact date of the MDOT reconstruction project along Rt. #32 is unknown at this time but was originally projected to be completed in 2018. A new copy of the warrant with changes made was then printed and distributed for consideration. On a motion made by P. Haines, seconded by R. Browne, the Board voted unanimously to sign the warrant as corrected.
8. Reports and Treasurer’s Warrants– It was noted that the First Responders’ report has not yet been received. Due to the late hour, a motion was made by R. Browne, seconded by P. Haines, and voted unanimously by the Board to combine several agenda items together and to accept the Road Report, the Police Report, and the Treasurer’s warrants as presented. The Board signed the Treasurer’s warrants.
9. Other – 1. On a motion made by P. Haines, seconded by R. Browne, the Board appointed Town Manager Mary Sabins to be the Town’s delegate to vote on the Town’s behalf at the MMA annual business meeting at the October Convention to be held in Bangor. 2. Sabins provided an update on staff member J. Poulin who had surgery the day before. The Board gave approval to send flowers to her next week. 3. Audience member Jim Jurdak asked if the Alewife Harvester was required to show proof of liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Sabins indicated the harvester has one more year on his contract and she will obtain a certificate of insurance for next spring’s harvest.
10. Adjourn – There being no further business to discuss, the meeting was adjourned at 8:50 p.m.
These minutes were read and accepted by the Board of Selectmen on 9/22/16 with the following amendments: None.