With little discussion, three Wiscasset selectmen voted Tuesday night against acceptance of the current version of the Gateway 1 Action Plan.
The 20 communities, included in the Gateway 1 Corridor from Brunswick to Stockton Springs, have been invited to join the Gateway 1 Coalition, which a consultant told the Wiscasset selectmen would assure the town of state Dept. of Transportation funding for studying particular projects along its own section of Rt. 1.
However, Selectmen Bob Blagden, Phil DiVece, and Pam Dunning, the only board members present for the regular meeting Tuesday, voted against the idea, citing the $1.3 million distributed amongst 20 towns would not leave much for individual communities’ engineering studies as promised.
“I would not want to put a roadblock up to discourage new developments,” DiVece said.
The topic came up during this week’s session after Town Manager Arthur Faucher suggested setting up an informational meeting with the town’s businesses before making a final decision. He said the consultant who presented the plan last week would be available for such a meeting on Oct. 22.
However, Board Chairman Blagden said he read the proposal, and saw no reason to postpone a decision on it.
Pointing to the plan’s limitations on curb cuts along the corridor, he noted Wiscasset probably has more than the plan allows. “It would effectively shut down any business,” he said.
“I’m against waiting until Oct. 31,” Selectman DiVece said. “A lot of businesses are against it.”
Dunning agreed. “I read a great deal about it, and I wasn’t impressed; $1.3 million dollars between 22 towns is not enough to hire an engineer to work out a plan,” he said.
Citizens from the various communities along the Rt. 1 corridor developed the plan, called the Gateway 1 Action Plan that recognizes the link between land use and transportation.
“It’s going to take a long time to implement this plan,” DOT consultant Stacey Benjamin said last week. “The goal is not to limit or stifle development but to foster higher density development.”
Benjamin addressed some concerns local citizens voiced last Tuesday about the use of Rt. 1 for future development, and the high cost of curb cuts. She said the coalition would amount to an advisory group to the DOT, and would set state funding priorities for projects in communities that belong to the coalition, as well as provide funding for technical assistance.
The coalition would not deal with safety or maintenance of Rt. 1, she said.
“Being a member of the coalition, the town would have more of a say, and have some priority over those that don’t belong,” Town Manager Arthur Faucher said last week. He said it would provide additional technical assistance funds.
Last week, Wiscasset resident Anne Leslie, member of the regional committee that helped draft the plan, said the group asked the hard questions and did not simply accept everything on face value before coming to a final version. From her view, local control issues were very much on the radar, an issue selectmen seemed to be cautious about.
Questions came up during the session about revenues from the Water District for the sewer treatment plant not showing up in the report of revenue. Faucher asked if DiVece asked the district treasurer about it. DiVece said he had not and asked the town manager to do so.
Budget committee chairman Steve Mehrl said the town has a problem treating some accounts differently than others. It was mentioned the treatment plant is considered an enterprise account operating solely on revenue from fees.
The budgeting method will receive scrutiny at next week’s board session, which will be devoted to a workshop on a gross budgeting system as a solution to the town’s budgeting problems. The board has considered switching to gross budgeting for some time and decided to hold a workshop on it to take a close look before decision-making.
The only business the board will take up next Tuesday will be the bids on the Powder House roofing project and bids opening for the town office fuel tank.