Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 5, 2013
Zoning, Main St. dominate another meeting in Castine
by Sharon Bray
A small but vocal contingent of citizens continued ongoing commentary on proposed zoning changes and on plans to reconstruct Main Street at the September 3 Board of Selectmen meeting.
Selectman David Unger said the board will not make any recommendations for or against the numerous items on the warrant for a special town meeting scheduled for September 23.
The planning board, which plans to meet and hold a public hearing September 12, will make a recommendation on each item. According to Town Manager Dale Abernethy, state law requires that planning board positions be included on the warrant.
As the warrant is written, Abernethy has included the recommendations of the subcommittee that drafted the zoning ordinance amendments.
Rick Armstrong, chairman of the Community and Economic Development committee (CED), asked selectmen to include his committee’s positions on the items.
Selectmen voted to do as Armstrong requested, but Selectman Gus Basile abstained, “Until I see it [the CED statement],” he said.
Peter Vogell, chairman of the board of selectmen, said the board received several emails about zoning changes that would allow bed and breakfast businesses in several parts of town.
He said he heard from the Castine Inn, Pentagoet Inn and Castine Cottages with objections since existing businesses were not currently filling all their vacancies.
Basile said he would like to remove that article entirely from the warrant.
“We are not going to recommend any changes,” stated Unger. The point of the warrant, he noted, was to present items that had been removed before the last town meeting because they were “controversial.”
Armstrong said the CED is “not in the business of stifling competition” but tries to support businesses. “We are not picking winners and losers.”
Resident Sally Foote said she was concerned about new wording on planning board and code enforcement officer permit processes.
Abernethy and selectmen said the basic system of issuing permits would not change.
On another current issue, “It is clear the town is very interested in the design of Main Street,” stated resident Arnold Berleant. He urged selectmen to “reconstitute the design subcommittee as a regular committee” serving the town.
Armstrong said the subcommittee of the CED was originally formed “to look at flowers and benches,” but “it became much more of an entity.”
Subcommittee Chairman Ted Lameyer spearheaded a citizen outcry against the redesign of Main Street as proposed by engineering consultants Olver Associates.
Olver was hired for engineering work on the next phase of Castine’s infrastructure improvement, especially water and sewer lines under the streets. The company presented its version of the surface of Main Street at several meetings in late 2012 and early 2013, and selectmen approved a wider Main Street with 10 fewer parking spaces.
Lameyer first became involved in the issue at the first meeting of the design subcommittee in June. A large, vocal crowd attended a meeting for public information and comments August 5.
At their next meeting after the public discussion, selectmen decided to hire a planner to take public opinions and professional advice into consideration and to come up with a new proposal.
Main Street property owner and part-year resident Ann Ashton asked for a “time frame” for the process.
“We are looking into ways to follow up” citizen input, said Unger. He added that actual work on the utilities and street might have to be postponed until 2015.
Sue Macdonald said the aging sewer and water pipes should be replaced as soon as possible because they could fail at any time.
Anne Farnham asked about timing of work on the utilities and rebuilding the street surface.
Both parts must be designed at the same time, said Vogell. He gave the specific example of placement of storm drains “up against curbs.”
Judy Fitzsimmons asked whether Olver or the town owns the rights to the computer aided designs the town hired Olver to produce.
“We have some ownership rights,” said Abernethy, but he did not know how much.
Liz Parish asked why the town did not ask Olver to work with Lameyer and his design proposals.
Unger cited personality issues that prevented doing so.
Selectmen said they hope to select the new design consultant by their next meeting September 16.
In other business, selectmen appointed Josh Carter to serve on the promotions subcommittee of CED.
Economic Development consultant Sue Walsh said a “young man” would add valuable diversity to the committee.
The board approved a grant application by the Utility Board to study ways to improve water storage capacity.
Utility Board Chairman Jurgen Engelhardt explained the possibility of pumping water from one of the ponds on Battle Avenue through sand that would filter out larger particles. The water company’s filters would last longer if the sand cleaning would work, he said.
With Bike Maine planning to bring more than 250 bikers and support workers to Castine September 10-11, Walsh asked for and received permission to allow overnight parking in areas near Fort George. Many bikers plan to camp at the fort.
Selectmen also approved a Maine Maritime Academy request to block off part of Pleasant Street as in the past for a day of special events.
The next selectmen’s meeting was scheduled for Monday, September 16, at 4 p.m.