News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 29, 2012
Selectmen disband Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee

by Sharon Bray

Meeting November 19, the Board of Selectmen complied with Sue Macdonald’s request “that the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee [CPIC] be dissolved.”

Macdonald chaired the CPIC.

After lengthy discussion, Selectmen Peter Vogell, Gus Basile and David Unger also agreed with Macdonald’s request to appoint a “standing committee” for economic development.

As Macdonald wrote in a letter dated November 13, selectmen had rejected her first dissolution request in September and decided to wait until after a November 6 vote on zoning changes put forth by a CPIC subcommittee. By a close margin, Castine voters approved a revised subdivision ordinance but rejected zoning ordinance changes that had been modified by selectmen following public meetings.

Vogell noted that dissolution of the CPIC would also bring to an end all of its subcommittees.

A number of CPIC and subcommittee members attending the selectmen’s November 19 meeting objected to taking action on a letter they had not seen in its completed form.

Tom Comiciotto questioned dissolving the zoning subcommittee “before their work is done.”

“I think we’re dropping the ball as far as zoning goes,” commented Liz Parish, who served on that subcommittee.

Pat Bishop, chairman of the economic development subcommittee, said she did not think the whole CPIC had agreed to disband the zoning group.

Unger said his board would move ahead to tackle controversial aspects of zoning including the need to hear from summer residents. By the end of the lengthy discussion, Unger agreed that selectmen would take action on an approach to zoning “before the end of the year.”

Macdonald’s letter included a recommendation to have zoning subcommittee chairman Bob Friedlander continue as a member of any new committee.

Friedlander spoke in defense of Macdonald’s letter and said Town Manager Dale Abernethy would send zoning ordinance revisions to the state to see if they would “be in compliance with the comprehensive plan.”

Establishment of an ongoing economic development committee met ready agreement from selectmen, but rumblings arose about who would serve on the committee.

Macdonald had included with her letter a list of people currently working on economic development along with her suggestion that its chairman Pat Bishop continue to serve on the new committee.

Unger said he would like to appoint a new committee of interested Castine volunteers.

With the existing committee in the midst of work on several projects, including winter holiday events, Bishop said she would want to let all members know immediately if they are not to continue to serve.

Scott Vogell expressed strong support for the existing committee and its volunteer work. He suggested a system of replacing members as they drop out rather than starting over all at once.

Projects now under way in addition to winter celebrations, according to Bishop, include website development and planning for summer 2013 “Waterfront Wednesdays.”

Peter Vogell nominated the entire subcommittee for appointment to the standing committee, and the other two selectmen agreed. Members are Susan Adam, merchant; Pat Bishop, business; Sue Goodson, community member, Adams School; Sara Leighton, merchant; Jeff Loustaunau, MMA; Sue Macdonald, community member; Michelle Mann, business/Bangor Bank; Brooke Tenney, community member, historical society; Rhonda Varney, MMA/business; with Economic Development Consultant Sue Walsh and Town Clerk Susan Macomber serving ex officio.

In other business, in response to a letter from members of the Frank Hatch Community Youth Fund board, selectmen approved use of a reservoir pond for ice skating—with many conditions attached.

Scott Vogell had volunteered to plow the skating area, but Abernethy said Utilities Supervisor George Motycka was concerned about allowing vehicles on reservoir ice.

“We are in the middle of investigating a shallow recharge well in that area,” said Abernethy, adding that a possible funding source could veto the plan if a vehicle contaminated the drinking water.

“George prefers that snow be removed by hand or with a snow blower,” said Abernethy.

Scott and Peter Vogell agreed that Scott’s plow is lightweight, and Scott promised he would not drive onto the ice without Motycka’s approval.

“Enthusiasm was contagious” when the idea of the skating pond was proposed according to Gil Tenney, member of the Fund’s board. He said Maine Maritime Academy is also interested in helping provide winter activities for Castine youth.

Tenney said he thought the Hatch Fund would pay for lifeguards if MMA opens its pool to the town on weekends.

In their letter, Fund board members Katrina Dagan, Kathy MacArthur, Kelly Brown and Christine Spratt outlined skating pond potential for community use, weekend music, and involvement of people from surrounding communities.

Abernethy took advantage of the presence of board members to inform them that land adjacent to the town’s saltwater swimming pond is almost entirely wetlands and unsuitable for their proposed soccer field. He offered suggestions for alternative locations including one on Maine Coast Heritage Trust land.

Another long discussion resulted in selectmen voting to allow a “temporary” exemption to the town’s winter parking rules for four MMA students renting a house on Court Street.

MMA student Ben Cattley represented the tenants asking permission to park two cars overnight on the gravel at the Court Street edge of the town common. He assured selectmen that cars could be four feet off the pavement and that their owners would move them before any snowstorms.

Cattley agreed with Basile’s statement that walking time to MMA’s commuter parking lot on Stevens Street is about five minutes. The problem, he said, is the fee of $50 for parking permits.

“You need to inform your landlord that he has to make parking available there, which is easily doable,” said Peter Vogell. He made selectmen’s receipt of a copy of the tenant’s letter to the landlord a condition of the temporary exemption.

“Temporary,” explained Vogell in response to Cattley’s question, means “until the town tells you you can’t. That could be tonight or in the spring.”

Basile voted against allowing the exemption.

In other business, selectmen approved the Historic Preservation Commission’s application for a grant to place relevant bronze markers in town.

The board accepted Abernethy’s holiday schedule for town office closing in combination with staff vacation time that will result in the office being closed between December 21 and 31. The public works crew will continue to work except on designated holidays.

Basile and Unger elected Vogell to chair the board for the next year.

December meetings were scheduled for Monday December 3 and 17 at 4 p.m. with a town-gown meeting December 19 at 8 a.m.