News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, January 31, 2013
Castine Selectmen agree to sidewalks for Main St., review proposals for infrastructure upgrade

by Sharon Bray

The Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday, January 22, covered a lot more than the housing issues reported in last week’s Patriot.

The meeting included a public discussion of plans to improve lower Main Street as part of the next phase of upgrading the town’s infrastructure. Parts of the underground engineering design for water and sewer utilities by Olver Associates awaited selectmen’s decisions about sidewalks, travel lanes and the best use of limited space in the business district.

Bill Olver told the Tuesday meeting that his company can look at the possibility of burying electric and telephone lines when he has enough information to give Central Maine Power and FairPoint Communications.

Final choices, based on citizen comments at previous public hearings, came down to whether or not to have sidewalks on both sides of Main Street from Perkins to Water Street.

Selectmen voted unanimously to go with sidewalks on both sides, 5 ft. on the west and variable on the east. An earlier proposal for yard-wide sidewalks on the west was ditched because people angle parking cars would be too likely to take up part of the sidewalk width by parking too close, Olver said.

Responding to a question from Selectman Gus Basile, consulting landscape architect Paul Brody said a curb to prevent overhang parking would be in the way of snow plows.

Plans call for angle parking pointing downhill on the west side—legal parking with the traffic flow—and parallel parking on the east. Currently, angle parking is permitted on both sides, both pointing downhill. Travel lanes would be 11 feet each the length of Main Street, and sidewalks would be narrower uphill of the Perkins Street intersection.

Although the street is too steep to conform to Americans with Disabilities Act standards, Olver said otherwise the design will do “the best we can with what’s out there.”

Although separate meetings will deal with proposed updates to the town’s land use ordinance, citizens at the selectmen’s meeting commented on Town Manager Dale Abernethy’s overview of proposed “baseline zoning” rules, which he has posted on the town’s website.

Selectman David Unger said the baseline includes suggestions from the town’s lawyer and removes all “controversial” sections.

The baseline, according to Abernethy, is “exactly what is in force today” with corrections of “deficiencies” to keep up with state laws.

Some processes under the old ordinances, said Abernethy, were “needlessly complex and burdensome on applicants,” but changes would “maintain the integrity of the town.”

One proposed change would make lot sizes in the area from Battle Avenue to the Back Shore (Village 3) the same as lot sizes in rural areas off-neck. For some reason Abernethy could not explain, the in-town area has required lot sizes of two and a half acres and two acres for rural lots.

Citizen Doug Koos asked if anyone had complained about the larger lot size requirement and asked, “Then why change lot sizes anywhere?”

Other proposed changes reduce allowable noise levels; add assisted living to hospitals and nursing homes where allowed; add bed and breakfasts to the zone for inns and hotels; change the name of the zone where Maine Maritime Academy is located from “institutional” to “educational;” lower the allowable height of communications towers; allow residential maintenance and repairs without a permit. All the details are on the town website and available for reading at the town office, Abernethy said.

Resident Gunilla Kettis suggested that selectmen schedule hearings on ordinance updates “at a time when people can attend,” maybe including a Sunday hearing.

Board Chairman Peter Vogell said selectmen would schedule some hearings at 7 p.m. to accommodate people who work days.

Another topic that drew public comment was what to do with the Dyce Head lighthouse keeper’s house. Nancy Carr leased the house for about 40 years until health issues forced her to give it up.

Resident Elaine Gardner suggested the town rent the keeper’s house by the week April through October and shut it down for the winter, as long as they have it open to the public for “lilac Sunday” as Carr had done for many years, inviting folks for a potluck supper.

Kettis said she had “long wished to see the inside of the house” and that tours of the house could be a tourist attraction.

“It is a beautiful spot, an historic jewel,” commented Sue Macdonald, former chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee.

Community and Economic Development Committee Chairman Pat Bishop noted the need for “a facelift” and repairs, especially to the “oil house” on the property. She also urged placement of road signs so visitors could find the lighthouse.

Vogell suggested they could rent it weekly during the summer and set aside one week a month to be open for tours.

Selectmen agreed with Ann Miller on the need for figures to compare cost and income potential for various options.

In other business, selectmen approved a policy for using the $72,500 donation to the town from the former Bagaduce Ambulance Corps in a way that would stretch the gift over many years.

They approved new licenses for MarKel’s Bakehouse, formerly known as Bah’s Bakehouse.

With construction on renovations of Emerson Hall taking longer than expected, the contractor found the roof shingles brittle and confirmed a few leaks. Abernethy said the town would need to spend more on a new roof than originally set aside for the renovations. Selectmen agreed to do so.

The next regular selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 4, Emerson Hall, 4 p.m.