News Feature

Blue Hill
Web exclusive, March 17, 2011
Blue Hill voters preview town meeting business

Click here to see the full Local Food: Ordinances & Issues Archive.

by Jonathan Thomas

The Blue Hill selectmen held hearings on three ordinances and a referendum question in a March 15 session that lasted less than an hour.

Approximately 15 people were present to comment on the following ordinances: one establishing tobacco-free zones at the town playground and athletic fields; one on food; and one to enable property owners to apply for government loans for energy-saving improvements.

Finally, there was discussion of a referendum question to authorize the selectmen to further investigate the matter of reestablishing access to Woods Pond.

Kenney Miller, representing the non-profit group Healthy Peninsula, briefly explained the tobacco-free zone ordinance.

The second hearing, on the “Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinances of 2011,” generated the most discussion.

Larissa Curlik said the ordinance would allow unfettered one-to-one transactions between food producers and consumers, and exempt such transactions from licensure and inspections.

Selectman John Bannister said the ordinance appears to go against the principle that state and federal law preempt local ordinances.

Selectman Jim Schatz said the board would have discretion in enforcement, minimizing any legal exposure of the town.

Bonnie Preston, speaking in favor of the ordinance, said several rules and regulations the Maine Department of Agriculture is now trying to enforce on local farmers appear to conflict with existing state laws passed by the legislature.

The energy-related ordinance is entitled “Property Assessed Clean Energy Ordinance.” Schatz said the ordinance’s enactment is necessary to permit residents to be eligible for low-interest state/federal loans. These would be provided with no cost or involvement by the town.

The final hearing was on the question, “Shall the town authorize the selectmen to pursue action that would secure public access to Woods Pond?” The question will be put to voters on Friday, April 1.

Bannister said the selectmen are looking to see if the referendum will give them a “green light” before they take further action toward reestablishing a public right of way to a beach on property given to the town about 100 years ago. Selectman Duane Gray joined Bannister in filling in details about the ambiguity of existing deeds in specifying the exact location of a right-of-way known to exist.

The tobacco-free ordinance and the Woods Pond question will be voted on by referendum ballot on Friday, April 1. The food ordinance and the PACE ordinance will be considered as warrant articles during the regular town meeting on April 2.