Special Meeting ResultsResults of the May 4th
Also later in this issue:
Controversial Sign to Stay
- Appeals Board corrects the Planning Board "Oversight"
Warrant voting results
In the last issue:
Crying Wolf - Analysis of the Articles at the May 4th
Special Town Meeting
Jump to the May 16th edition
Special Town Meeting
Voters to make Selectmen Sweat...
All articles pass except for air conditioning
Senator Jim Libby chaired the special town meeting Thursday night and in a spirit of even-handedness, even silenced Selectman Herbert Ramsdell in an effort to ensure that everyone got his or her chance to address the meeting.
by Dick Jarrett
Heat over air conditioning
The selectpersons took their greatest grilling over the air conditioning question. Willard Boothby questioned why these articles were not brought up at the annual town meeting which was only two months ago. Martha Smith questioned why money has to be spent on a brand new building - a building that was sold to the voters as being a complete package when originally proposed. Several people questioned why the ductwork was not installed during the initial construction and Selectman Herbert Ramsdell confirmed that it would have been less expensive over the long run to do so. Selectman Barry Gammon shouldered some of the blame for the lack of ductwork in that it was at his recommendation that radiant heat be installed in the building instead. He explained that the radiant heat system will yield a 30% savings in winter fuel costs. Mr. Cody asked if there were other expenses on the agenda for the future. Although selectmen Ramsdell said no, most people were not convinced that this will be the case.
The air conditioning system that the selectpersons had proposed would really only be able to cool half of the building at a time. The proposed ductwork would have allowed the cooling to be switched from the office area to the meeting room so that either area could be cooled, but not simultaneously. The system would also have included an air exchange system which would allow some of the heat content of the fresh air to be removed by the exiting exhaust air. The selectpersons had no estimate of the yearly operating expense for such a system.
Bill McKinnon asked exactly how much surplus money the Town does have. Selectman Ramsdell responded that the amount changes from week to week but the figure was around $200,000. Lorraine Libby questioned the wisdom of dipping into these funds because these are the same funds that have enabled the town to avoid borrowing against anticipated taxes. Because of this surplus, the town has not had to borrow for the last year and a half. If the town spends this money, Selectwoman Maddocks confirmed that the town may have to borrow at the current prevailing interest rate of 4.7%.
The voters concluded that it would be better to wait to get a firm proposal, see how the building does this summer with window air conditioners, and possibly do a complete job when and if the voters decide that air conditioning is really necessary.
In the second closest vote of the night, the voters decided that the building should be dressed up with plants and shutters. Of the $4,000 to be spent, Selectwoman Kathy Maddocks said that $500 will be for decorative shutters on the front of the building while the balance will be used for the plants. Dan Kidd questioned why the landscaping was not included as part of the original bid. Mark Faunce, who works in the nursery business, reminded the selectpersons that the initial cost was not the only cost; such plants entail a yearly maintenance expense. Bob O'Bradovich asked if the selectpersons had a list of plants and a landscaping plan so that a realistic cost estimate could be done. The selectpersons replied that a plan had yet to be drawn up. This reporter reminded the selectpersons that a plan with a detailed list of plants had been paid for by the town and submitted to the Planning Board by the selectpersons.
Regional Public Access Facility (Cable TV)
Tony Vigue of Saco River Community Television promised the town that cable will soon be available to almost everybody in Limington. Right now there are 427 homes in Limington for which cable is inaccessible. By the end of August of this year, however, this number will drop to only 83 homes. A list of the roads that will get cable was distributed and a copy will be posted on this website in the near future.
Could Mike Edgecomb of SRCT interest you in switching your long distance carrier? Pretty soon, unless you are one of the unserved 83, you will have the ability to get your long distance telephone service from the cable company. Soon after that they will also offer local telephone service so that Standish Telephone will no longer be the only game in town. No guarantees as to the actual timetable, but by the middle of next year, high speed internet access will be available via a cable modem as well. Much to the selectpersons chagrin, this means that you will be able to access the Limington Free Press at lightning speeds! The local schools and library will be given free internet access.
The voters passed this article by a wide margin. This means that the residents of Limington will be eligible to use the new Cable TV studio that is being built in Hollis on the Poland Spring property.
The sale of the East Limington Fire Barn also generated a lot of discussion but in the end the sale was approved by a wide margin. Although the town is selling the building at far below the true value of a comparable building, the fact that, according to Norma Noyes, the sale will save SAD 6 money persuaded many voters to go along. Brad Brown and Ray Webb argued that since the building is partially sitting on John Hubbard's land, its actual value was zero. Of course that works both ways; since the building is partially sitting on town land it is potentially worth zero to Mr. Hubbard as well. Several people including a gentleman who is purchasing the store next door wanted the building to go out for competitive bid. Selectman Herbert Ramsdell said that it can't because of the dual ownership. Sherwood Libby stated that this was grossly unfair to the abutters such as Ray Littlefield (owner of R&S Variety) who have a legitimate interest in the sale but have no say in the matter. The whole thing seemed like a sneaky deal to Mr. Libby.
If approved in the June 13th election, SAD 6 will purchase the property and use it for storing paper supplies and lawnmowers.
Water Quality Testing
Contrary to the pessimism expressed previously by this reporter, the Water Quality Testing question passed by a two to one margin. Selectman Herbert Ramsdell was against this article while Selectpersons Maddocks and Gammon voted in favor. Selectwoman Maddocks said that this was not placed on the March warrant because it was received after the warrant had been sent to the printers. The money will be spent only on water quality testing and the $600 will be matched three to one by Federal and State sources. Several people including former selectwoman Roxanne Herrick questioned how the Saco River Corridor Commission who administers this program gets its funding and why that funding does not pay for this testing. SRCC representative Sherwood Libby explained the commission's operating expenses are funded by many sources including the State Legislature and the Towns of Saco and Biddeford which use the Saco River for their drinking water. However, these funds do not provide for testing upstream where we are located. The first step in ensuring that the water quality does not decrease is to know what the current quality is. This reporter stated that although we never hope to have a municipal water system, if we ever do, the primary source for our water may be wells that are supplied by the Saco River.
Because this question passed, Article 7 which restored the $600 to the Planning Board budget, also passed with no controversy.
SAD 6 Director Pay Raise
The voters had little problem raising the compensation for the directors of SAD 6 from $10 to $15 per meeting. Director Norma Noyes outlined the long hours she spends and the said that although she had attended 85 to 90 meetings last year, she was actually only paid for 51. This article was not placed on the March ballot because it was not submitted to the Selectpersons until April 20th. The question must also be approved at the June 13th referendum election. These funds are part of the school budget and do not appear directly in the town budget.
ARTICLE 1 Moderator State Senator Jim Libby ARTICLE 2 $9,000 Air Conditioning Indefinately Postponed (27 to 24) ARTICLE 3 $4,000 Bushes and Shutters Passed as read (28 Yes to 22 No) ARTICLE 4 Regional Public (Cable) Access Facility Passed as read (large margin) ARTICLE 5 Sell Fire Station to SAD 6 for $5,000 Passed as read (large margin) ARTICLE 6 $600 for Water Quality Testing Passed as read (30 Yes to 15 No) ARTICLE 7 $600 back to Planning Board Passed as read (large margin) ARTICLE 8 $15 per meeting for SAD 6 directors Passed as read (large margin)
View the Warrant for the Thursday May 4th
Special Town Meeting.
For more information view the last issue Crying Wolf - Analysis of the Articles at the
Special Town Meetingand the previous edition Shortfall Haunts New Municipal Complex
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Controversial Sign to StayAppeals Board rules that the Planning Board made a mistake by not considering the sign that was not shown on the application.
by Dick Jarrett
Darryl R. Hubbard told the Limington Appeals Board Tuesday night that he should be able to move his sign to a new lot. "They (the Planning Board) gave me permission to move my business and the sign is part of my business", Hubbard stated. Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Freeman Abbot had previously said that a permit could not be issued for moving the sign because the town's zoning ordinance prohibits new free standing signs in the commercial zone. CEO Abbot had based his opinion on a specific letter about this issue obtained from the Town's Lawyer, Jim Haddow. Mr. Hubbard added: "We're not going to argue the fact that in 2002 if they (the voters) don't change it (the sign ordinance), the sign would have to come down."
Last December, Darryl and Diane Hubbard had appeared before the Planning Board with a request to move their 26 by 42 single story office building back onto a rear lot from its previous location (which was not owned by the Hubbards). Their application showed three lots: The front lot where the building was originally located, a middle lot owned by the Hubbards where the application stated that the access road to Route 25 plus another road already existed, and a rear lot owned by the Hubbards to where the building was to be moved. Mr. Hubbard stated at that meeting: "There already was a parking lot on the other lot that I was using that's mine. All's I'm doing is moving that office building back to a second lot that's mine." When asked specifically if the lot where the pre-existing roads were located was part of the application, Mr. Hubbard told the Planning Board: "No. It's already there. I'm already using it." No mention of the sign was made on the application or at the meeting. On December 9th, the Planning Board approved the application to move the building to the rear lot.
It is not as if the Planning Board was unaware of general sign issues. At the very same meeting that the Planning Board approved the moving of the building, board member Diane Hubbard asked the board if we were going to set up a special meeting to discuss changes to the sign ordinance. A workshop meeting was then scheduled for the next week so that changes that would allow free standing signs in the commercial zone could be put before the voters at the annual town meeting.
In March the voters turned down the proposed sign changes to the zoning ordinance. Shortly thereafter, the sign was moved to the lot that was stated to be not part of the application. The CEO maintained that a permit could not be issued to move the sign. No permit to move the sign was applied for. After the CEO received the opinion from the town lawyer a violation notice was issued.
After discussing the merits of sign provisions of the zoning ordinance on Tuesday night, the Appeals Board said that the Planning Board had made a mistake (an oversight) in that the sign was not considered part of the process. The Appeals Board passed a motion to the effect that the sign should be considered part of the business and that it should be allowed to move with the business. Appeals Board member Bob Axleson said that this action should tell the Planning Board that "from now on they better pay more attention to it."
This ruling may put the Planning Board in a Catch-22 situation. The Planning Board is prohibited by law from considering issues outside of an application as such an action would exceed the authority of the board. In fact, attaching conditions not related specifically to an application can be grounds for a successful appeal. The Appeals Board appears to be telling the Planning Board that it should have expanded the scope of the application and ruled specifically on the sign even though the board was never asked about it and was even told that the lot to where the sign was eventually moved was not part of the application. Wendy Walker, Chairperson of the Planning Board is already on record as saying that had the sign been mentioned, the board would have probably had to say that the sign could not be allowed.
The appeal itself was also somewhat curious. Normally an applicant appeals a decision where a permit was denied or an unacceptable condition was attached. In this case, the Planning Board had approved the permit to move the building with no special conditions of approval. Neither the application nor the approval, however, mentioned anything about moving a sign. Nevertheless, the appeal stated that it was an administrative appeal where the appellant believed that an error was made in the denial of a permit. No permit to move the sign was either applied for or denied. Although the CEO had issued a violation notice, the submitted appeal form did not mention that notice.
The real question here is was justice served? The members of the Appeals Board have all taken a solemn oath to follow the laws. Can they really say in their hearts that their decision is compatible with the zoning ordinance that was enacted by the voters? The ultimate responsibility lies with the selectpersons who appoint the members of the board.
Not all of the attendees from the Public Tuesday night were impressed with our town government. A gentleman from the Sand Pond area who was there for other business scolded the board after listening to the sign deliberations: "This is the first time that I have been to one of these but I don't see anything that's going on that (shows that) anybody knows what they are doing. ... The left hand is not telling the right hand what's going on and visa-versa."
Previous articles on this subject appeared in the March 23rd edition and the April 16th edition of the Limington Free Press.
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