News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, August 9, 2018
What does Blue Hill want? Selectmen form committee to find out

by Anne Berleant

What does Blue Hill want? An answer may come from a new committee selectmen voted August 3 to form, after defending themselves against suggestions they had not tabled a proposal to purchase a Salt Pond property but planned a referendum vote later this year. The proposal was voted down 86-97 at a July 25 special town meeting.

The outcry, from eight citizens attending the weekly selectmen’s meeting, was prompted by a Bangor Daily News article published August 2. Selectmen James Schatz and Ellen Best said their discussion with a reporter was misrepresented.

“You have lost the confidence of your constituents,” Brooke Bannister Clapp said. “You are here working for us and we don’t feel we’ve been heard.”

Schatz said that comments at an informational public meeting prior to the vote showed that citizens were more displeased with the special town meeting process than with the proposed purchase, leading to the idea of a referendum vote. But the citizens filling the selectmen’s August 3 meeting said selectmen should stand by the results of that vote.

“The town voted. They had their say. We did it in a fair, aboveboard way,” Mindy Marshuetz said.

After more than an hour of back-and-forth discussion between selectmen and the public that saw voices and levels of frustration on both sides rise, Selectman Vaughn Leach proposed the committee.

“I think we need to know, what do the citizens of Blue Hill want?” Leach said.

The committee could assess and recommend priorities—Salt Pond public access, town park and sidewalks upgrades were mentioned—that the about $750,000 in an assigned land purchase account could fund. A town vote could reassign or abolish the fund if proposed in a warrant article, either by selectmen or by citizen petition.

Selectmen approved forming the committee 2-1, with Schatz dissenting, based on the timing—right after the Salt Pond vote—but agreed that “what we do in the future needs to include more decisionmakers.”

Selectmen said they would discuss how to fill the new committee seats, and officially name it, in upcoming selectmen’s meetings.

In other business, Planning Board Chairman Scott Miller noted a public hearing on August 13 prior to a vote on one outstanding criterion—vehicle and pedestrian safety—in Blue Hill Co-op’s commercial site plan application. An abutter to Sandy’s Blue Hill Cafe at 40 Main Street asked that the owners not block Mill Street with construction trucks and supplies. And, selectmen also agreed that Blue Hill Fair vendors selling plastic-bagged popcorn and cotton candy were using product bags, exempted from the single-use plastic bag ordinance.