Proposed Bridgton land use rules put on shelf until June 2018 meeting

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Audrey Knight was expected to bring a fresh approach and “another set of eyes” to Bridgton’s planning and development.

Her insight moved the Land Use Zoning Committee to abandon the idea of putting the proposed zoning ordinance before voters this November.

In a prepared statement, committee member Bill Vincent informed selectmen Tuesday night that the group would like to delay bringing the proposal to a public vote for another six months, and present it at the annual town meeting in June 2018.

“Audrey (the town’s new Community Development director) came in with both fresh and knowledgeable eyes and she had so many questions, not so much about the content, but the structure of the ordinance and how well it would stand up to legal challenge,” Vincent read. “We took a vote and came to the consensus that there’s no way we could put together a good document for November.”

The Land Use Zoning Committee — created by selectmen — started work about 2½ years ago following the approval of a new Comprehensive Plan. Members included: Kenneth Gibbs, William O’Connor, Charles Renneker, Lucia Terry, Brian Thomas and Vincent. Selectmen Chairman Greg Watkins served as a liaison.

“Since that time, we’ve worked diligently at putting this thing together,” Vincent said. “Several times, we thought we were ready to go to vote, until we were shown just how ‘not’ ready we were. As much as we’ve implored the public for input, we’ve gotten very little until we were to the point that we thought we were ready to turn it over to the board of selectmen. Most of what we got was narrow, self-serving critique. Not to say it wasn’t welcome, but rather that it wasn’t very helpful in the grand scheme of things.”

Vincent closed out his comments saying, “With Audrey’s help, we can pretty much tear it down, reorganize and rebuild it.”

Selectmen voted 5–0 to support the committee’s recommendation to push the zoning vote back to June 2018.

Later in the meeting, selectmen supported Knight’s suggestion to develop an awareness/educational campaign regarding zoning.

While Knight looks to streamline existing ordinances into one zoning package (an expected draft will be ready either in October or November), she recommended using up to $5,000 (some funds remain in the community development budget to help defray some of the costs) to work with an outside marketing agency to develop materials to help the public understand the benefits of zoning. For example, one awareness piece will show one property with zoning in place, and the ramifications the same property might face with no zoning.

Another education campaign will be regarding wastewater system expansion. The Wastewater Committee and CDC will work on press and public information releases outlining the reasons “why” an expanded system is needed here.

Town Manager Bob Peabody said two important pieces are presently in the works — one is a public income survey (see related story on Page 3A) which will help determine what percentage of grant money Bridgton might be entitled to toward this project, and two is testing of Stevens Brook.

Peabody suspects that the town will likely miss getting the wastewater bond issue on the November ballot.

“I believe this is something you don’t rush,” he said.

The bond will likely include three major projects Bridgton looks to tackle — wastewater expansion, streetscape and paving of sidewalks.

In other selectmen notes:

Leased space. For the past 20 years, if you needed to renew your driver’s license or take a driver’s test, you simply had to visit the town office lower meeting room on specific dates where the Department of Motor Vehicles had set up a mobile office — no long trip to Lewiston or Portland was needed.

Recently, it was discovered that DMV used the space at no cost. Neither the state or town officials were able to locate a written lease agreement.

The two sides agreed to a three-year lease agreement for the 2,043 square feet of interior space, which includes the meeting and conference rooms at a cost of $200 per month. The lease can be renewed by DMV for three terms of two years.

The state utilizes the space Monday and Friday on the first and last Thursday of the month, as well as the second Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Is transfer station at capacity? As the Bridgton Planning Board reviews applications for two major residential developments, Chairman Steve Collins saw a red flag regarding solid waste disposal.

The review process includes statements from various town department heads, and Transfer Station manager Robert Fitzcharles seemingly raised concerns about the traffic load of users from the new 55-lot Woods Pond Village subdivision on South High Street delivering trash and recyclables to the transfer station.

“The transfer station is at near capacity in the summer months with the influx of vacationers and summer dwellers,” he wrote. “It is time for Bridgton to force or recommend that any new business or housing project of any more than three units put in dumpsters…”

Under state law, a municipality is required to take residential and commercial waste. The town is not required to accept demolition debris, but it does.

So, Collins raised the question to selectmen whether an ad hoc committee should be formed to identify transfer station problems, investigate possible solutions and consider revisions to subdivision regulations.

Town Manager Peabody, however, questions whether Fitzcharles’ comment has more to do with management of the facility versus whether it has reached capacity.

“Looking at it at first blush, we don’t know if it is near capacity since there has been no analysis,” he said. “Maybe it’s a question of do we have enough bins? Maybe we need to order more bins. That’s a management issue.”

Peabody noted that Fitzcharles is out on a medical leave at this time.

Selectmen expect to receive specific figures in September regarding the amount of waste dumped by commercial haulers.

“My conscious is clear since I brought this to the board’s attention,” Collins said.

A chance to make amends. Rather than bringing in the town attorney to deal with the issue of damaged directional signs, selectmen will give sign-maker Nelle Ely of Bridgton a chance to repair or replace the signs.

After some discussion as to what selectmen wanted to see done to the signs in question, resident Bill Vincent told officials that if they dictate the number of sealing coats for each sign, the town loses its warranty.

“It’s simple. We have a contract with Nelle. She needs to comply with the contract, either fix the damaged signs or replace them. She deserves the first opportunity to repair the signs that are damaged,” Selectman Bob McHatton said.

If the repairs fail to meet the town’s expectations, then the town can turn to its attorney.

Selectman Bear Zaidman asked CDD Audrey Knight her thoughts on the issue. Knight felt the town should seek repairs to existing signs, but noted that the town is set to embark on a new “branding” campaign, which will include a slightly different looking “tag line,” and thus think about buying some new signs, as well.

Selectmen voted 5–0 to give Ely an opportunity to address the damaged signs.

Full house. Public Works Director Jim Kidder says the South High Street cemetery is “full,” so it might be time to inquire whether one or two abutting property owners might be interested in selling land so the town can expand the cemetery.

One property owner spoke with Selectman Zaidman recently about whether the town might be interested in purchasing land. Selectman Bob Murphy heard a similar inquiry, and put the matter on the table for officials to discuss.

Kidder said a major question is where specifically are the property lines situated? Despite a couple of trips to Portland, no deed has been located.

“What we have on the town map isn’t what is on the ground. The maps don’t match,” Kidder said.

The town could survey the property, but no money was budgeted for it. Selectmen instructed Town Manager Peabody to start some deed research and talk with the abutters, whose deeds might help fill in some blanks regarding the property lines, and gauge their interest in possibly selling land to expand the cemetery.

Park hours. When Mary Shorey takes a walk on North High Street or Route 93, she feels she is putting her life at risk.

“People speed every day, every week, at all hours, all the time,” said Shorey, who has lived on North High Street for the past 40 years.

She and other neighbors have found a safe haven — Pondicherry Park and other town parks. However, a recent change closes parks a half hour after dusk. When dusk arrives earlier in the fall and winter months (4 p.m.), Shorey wonders where walkers can safely take a stroll, along with their dogs, if parks remain closed.

She asked selectmen to reconsider park hours for fall and winter months, and not penalize a majority of citizens who act appropriately. Selectmen will likely take a look at their previous vote setting the new hours (dusk to dawn) at their next meeting.

Wanting an answer. When Hans Risch read that selectmen would be interested in selling some of the stones that once served as barriers on the Moose Pond Causeway, he expressed an interest to buy a few.

His wife’s grandfather helped build the Causeway back in the day.

Risch, however, received no reply from the town office or selectmen so he attended Tuesday’s meeting seeking answers.

Manager Bob Peabody said no sales have been made since the board voted on the matter two weeks ago because the town is still trying to determine what a fair price is,

Peabody has received feedback that some people feel it is a “terrible” idea to sell the stones. So, he wanted to hear what selectmen have to say.

With the board’s attention, Risch inquired about two other matters — why some local sidewalks remain in a state of disrepair and should be fixed before “someone breaks an ankle,” and why doesn’t Bridgton offer later town office hours to accommodate residents who either work out of town or work late.

The town office closes at 4 p.m. At one time, Saturday hours were offered, but Town Clerk Laurie Chadbourne said use was low.

Risch said many people may be forced to take a day off simply to register a vehicle because the office closes too early.

CDC reorganized. Chuck Renneker announced he was stepping down as chairman of the Community Development Committee, handing over the reins to Bill Vincent.

Also, selectmen agreed to a request to allow the CDC to reduce the number of full-time voting members and add two alternates. Renneker brought the request forward to enable the group to reduce the number needed to have a quorum. Peter DeBrule and Margaret Cummings agreed to be alternates.

Firehouse vandalized. South Station was vandalized on July 23, resulting in an estimated $3,200 damage to the building’s main doors. A suspect has been apprehended, and the town is seeking restitution.

Peabody also noted in his manager’s report that work has started to remove and replace the station’s propane system.

Paving underway. Fosterville Road is being paved. Once work is completed there, paving will take place on Fox Crossing, Middle Ridge and the end of Upper Ridge. Burnham Road is scheduled to be prepped (ditch and culvert work, removal of rocks) this year, and paved in next year’s budget.

Upgrades. Using the Efficiency Maine rebate program, the town has upgraded lighting in the lower town office parking lot, changing to LED. New globes were installed, and county workers painted the poles black.

Meanwhile, the town office downstairs office space is nearly ready for use. Electricians are installing phone and computer lines and general outlets.

Bridgton’s Clerk of the Works, Jeff Frey, presented selectmen with two options regarding the town hall’s front doors.

One option would be to keep the present doors and make repairs and upgrades to improve security and energy efficiency. Second option would be to install new thermal efficient doors.

Frey received quotes from two companies regarding each option, and surprisingly, the amounts were “less than $100” of each other.

Selectman Bear Zaidman requested to see examples of new doors before moving on the project.

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