The Bremen Board of Selectmen has hired a consultant, Jamie Francomano, to assist the Bremen Planning Board and respond to citizen inquiries about permitting processes and zoning regulations.
The board made the decision Thursday, March 1, during a meeting with Francomano, the executive director of the Midcoast Regional Planning Commission, to discuss how a planning consultant could assist the town.
Selectman Wendy Pieh proposed that the town move forward with Francomano as a consultant, suggesting a $500 monthly stipend.
Francomano said he was amenable to the proposal.
“That sounds reasonable. I’m open to one or two regular half-days in a month. Whatever it takes to establish a routine,” Francomano said.
Pieh directed Francomano to work with Voskian and Administrative Assistant Kelly Clancy to set up times to meet moving forward.
Francomano is currently the executive director of the Rockland-based nonprofit and has previous experience as Rockport’s town planner and the city planner for Presque Isle.
The Midcoast Regional Planning Commission provides Knox and Waldo counties with planning and community development services.
Pieh said Francomano will start by working solely with the planning board.
If he has time, the Bremen Ordinance Review Committee may seek his assistance as it works through the town’s shoreland zoning ordinance.
Pieh said the committee is currently working on the appeals board ordinance, which is relatively straightforward and doesn’t necessitate outside assistance to complete.
The selectmen and members of the public discussed the role of a part-time planning consultant prior to the board’s decision to hire Francomano.
Planning board Chair Walter Voskian suggested that the consultant could help the town as it works through the town’s existing ordinances.
“The ordinances are dense and hard to comprehend. We need someone to work through them with,” Voskian said.
Voskian said he would view the consultant as the town’s first point of contact with citizens, helping residents understand what applications need to go before the planning board and what projects require approval from the town’s code enforcement officer.
Voskian said, as he envisions the position, the consultant would also help the planning board review applications and attend planning board meetings to address any issues and questions which may arise.
Voskian suggested that it would be helpful if the consultant kept regular office hours so applicants know when to come in and ask questions.
“It would be helpful if applicants knew they have someone to talk to if they need to,” Voskian said.
Francomano said he could look through the town’s schedule of uses and zoning definitions to help applicants determine what requires a building permit and what would trigger a site plan review.
Francomano advocated for a user-friendly approach, a process he felt worked well during his time in Rockport.
Bennett Collins, a Bremen resident, said he hopes a consultant can work to make the town’s ordinances easier to understand.
“I hope the consultant makes ordinances easier to read and more digestible,” Collins said.
Selectman Hank Nevins said issues with the town’s shoreland zoning ordinance can lead to a lengthy permitting process.
“The way I look at it, we are a retail store and (applicants) are the customers. We need to get them the right information. Basically a nice, smooth operation, that is what I’m looking for. We’re a small town. We should treat them like a neighbor because they are our neighbors,” Nevins said.
Town attorney Jonathan Hull said Bremen’s comprehensive plan is 14 years old and a consultant could assist the town with the substantial preparations involved in reviewing and revising a comprehensive plan.
“There is a lot of groundwork involved in setting up a comprehensive plan,” Hull said.