Jefferson residents confronted the Board of Selectmen about safety on roads and land use ordinance issues during the regularly scheduled Board meeting Monday night.
The exchange attracted the attention of one state representative and a senator. Sen. David Trahan (R-Waldoboro) and Rep. Lisa Miller (D-Somerville) mostly listened to exchanges between citizens and selectmen at the Aug. 17 meeting, speaking quietly with residents during and after to hear the concerns expressed.
Arriving late into the meeting with several residents, Miller and Trahan did not hear concerns about local youth jumping off the Davis Stream Bridge.
Jefferson resident Kim Anderson told selectmen she was concerned someone might get hurt. She mentioned an incident roughly two weeks ago, when she estimated between 15 and 20 youth were using the bridge to jump into the water and were standing out in the road.
Noting the speed and frequency of tractor trailer trucks on Rt. 32, Anderson said, “They don’t even slow down.”
She wanted selectmen to address the issue before someone got hurt. Anderson said she spoke with Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputy Mark Bridgham, who said he knows several of the youth who jump off the bridge to cool off on hot summer days.
The town had a speed test done and changed the speed limit a while ago, but motorists continue to speed through the village area, selectmen said.
“The state told us if you lower the speed limit, people increase their speed,” selectman James Hilton said, adding that the state conducted a study to prove the theory. “I’m 64 years old and I’m pretty sure people have been jumping off that bridge since before I was born.”
All the same, Anderson countered, there is significantly more traffic on the road than in previous years. She said the trend of increased traffic only makes the matter worse.
Selectman Jigger Clark said representatives from the Maine Dept. of Transportation (DOT) told the town they had considered installing a foot bridge on one side of the existing structure.
Board members said that in communication with the DOT back in 2004, they learned a town ordinance would have to be put into place. Then Sheriff’s Deputies would then be able to enforce the ordinance.
Selectmen told Anderson she would need to gather 122 signatures on a petition for the town’s approval to draft an ordinance. Town clerk Lynn Bond said the petition would have to be submitted to the town 60 days before the next election, which would be in March.
“We’ve got to start somewhere,” Anderson said.
The town fined Mary Brotherton for cutting trees on her Jefferson property without consulting Jefferson CEO, Neil Campbell. As selectmen explained, Brotherton entered into a consent agreement with the town in which she agreed to plant trees to replace what she had hired someone to cut down.
Campbell contacted Brotherton to ask when she would be planting the trees and also alleged her land previously did not have lawn where it does currently.
“I feel like I’m being harassed,” Brotherton said as she stood facing selectmen, denying Campbell’s assertion.
The irate citizen, who had hired a lawyer to communicate with town officials, said the trees on her property were rotten and were standing in water. Not knowing about the ordinance rules, she hired someone to cut down the trees under someone else’s suggestion. She said she did not face the same problem on another parcel she owns in Waldoboro.
The discussion between the parties in the meeting revealed confusion over new state guidelines regarding shoreland zoning setbacks. According to selectmen, the state requires a 250 foot setback from the upland edge of water bodies within the shoreland zone.
The town of Waldoboro had a raucous meeting July 22, during which residents expressed their frustration over new state mandated setback regulations and the decision by the local planning board to further restrict construction beyond state guidelines. As planning board members indicated on a map during that meeting, each parcel is different and construction restrictions would depend on the lay of the land. The Waldoboro planning board has since been re-working their approach to setback rules, but restrictions set by the state could not be amended.
“It’s almost like being set up,” Brotherton said, responding to selectmen’s explanation of the state law.
Selectman Jigger Clark said that while they understood Brotherton’s frustration, asked if she could give them a date as to when they could expect a plan for planting the trees. They said they would set up a time period of one year.
Clark asked if one year would be adequate time to comply with the consent agreement. Brotherton hesitantly nodded her head, but added she wasn’t sure if any trees she planted would grow in such a wet area.
Michael Bowden, one of several residents who own property off Eames Road, headed up the conversation with selectmen.
“It’s just an unsafe area,” Bowden said, noting how the hill by the Jefferson First Baptist Church obstructs the view of traffic in both directions, depending on where vehicles are entering.
Bowden said he had spoken with an engineer and another representative with the DOT regarding the issue. He was told an individual would not be able to formally request construction work or signage, but town officials could.
According to Bowden, there are 13 houses on the dead-end road, the intersection of which lies on the low side of a hill. Traffic turning onto Rt. 32 from the road has to pull out quickly, as vehicles traveling away from Jefferson Village cannot be seen.
“It’s the speed and blind visibility,” Bowden said as the crowd gathered outside the room after the meeting. “The DOT’s had two years to put in signs.”
Selectmen said they would request “dangerous intersection” signs and a replacement for a missing speed limit sign.
“They could at least put up a dangerous intersection sign,” Trahan said.
Bowden said he also spoke with DOT members regarding the speed limit on that section of road, which is currently at 45 miles per hour.
“Really they ought to shave off that hill, but the DOT doesn’t have the money,” Miller said in a follow-up telephone interview.
Selectmen said they would also request that the MDOT conduct a speed study for the purpose of reducing speeding on Rt. 32.