News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 5, 2018
Selectmen grapple with citizens, typos ahead of town meeting

by Anne Berleant

Selectmen faced a capacity crowd at their weekly meeting on March 30 and, along the way, discovered the town report held a critical error in one warrant article: the Blue Hill Library funding request listed the Blue Hill Historical Society as the recipient. Fortunately, the legal, posted warrants at the library and town hall show the correct language.

“It was a printer error,” Chairman Vaughn Leach said after the meeting.

Most of the meeting centered on proposed amendments to the street vending ordinance.

John Warren, who has restaurants opening in two downtown buildings he purchased last year, raised his concerns over the effect food trucks could have on existing restaurants.

“With issues like this that can have an impact, what is the basis for the ordinance?” he asked.

In an earlier interview with The Weekly Packet, Warren and three other citizens, two of whom are involved with businesses opening in Warren-owned buildings, said food trucks could erase the margin needed for brick-and-mortar restaurants to survive.

“They can just come and take the best of it with no rent, no sewer tax. They could take the margin that helps year-round businesses stay open in the winter,” said Julie Jo Fehrle, involved in the soon-to-be-opened Siam Sky Thai restaurant on Mill Street.

Before Warren could get too far into the issue at the selectmen’s meeting, Selectman Jim Schatz advised that “town meeting was the time to lay out your testimony on the ordinance,” while Chairman Vaughn Leach noted that two public hearings had been held on it.

Schatz had attended a meeting the night before at Harbor House Café on Water Street, where Warren and about 20 to 25 citizens and business owners discussed the upcoming ordinance.

“Last night, you showed some skepticism [over the selectmen] handling the permit process,” said Schatz. “We have years of experience.”

In the current ordinance, an applicant must apply for a mobile vending permit by December 31, with the application then being voted on at town meeting in April. “Our idea was to make it a…more reasonable way for people to approach us for a license,” Selectman Ellen Best said.

She recalled the 1980s when Blue Hill had seven restaurants and was a destination for dining out.

“I don’t see [food trucks versus restaurants] as a zero-sum game but as a flowering that can bring people to Blue Hill,” she said. “The more people who come for food is good for down town.”

In other business, Bobbi Michelson, neighbor of the soon-to-be opened Dollar Store, complained that with the new building’s side lights on, “my yard looks like daylight all night long. I understand when people are coming in and out they need light. But at 2 o’clock in the morning? No.”

Schatz said the code enforcement officer would look into the matter.