Former Waldoboro selectman Steve Cartwright said a June 10 vote by the selectmen to relax sign requirements in the town’s land use ordinance was a “pretty big mistake.” (D. Lobkowicz photo)
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By Dominik Lobkowicz
After issues were raised with a June 10 executive session and a subsequent vote to relax the town’s land use ordinance, the Waldoboro Board of Selectmen voted to rescind the action at their June 24 meeting.
The June 10 vote was related to a perceived risk of losing a Family Dollar store planned for Route 1 to another town since the project’s proposed sign was more than twice the square-footage allowed in the town’s land use ordinance.
A Family Dollar official has since said via email there was never a discussion to relocate the store.
At the selectboard’s June 24 meeting, a former selectman and members of the Waldoboro Planning Board took issue with the selectmen’s decision to relax the sign requirements in the ordinance.
“I think the action taken by the selectboard on June 10 regarding the Family Dollar store was a pretty big mistake and needs to be rectified,” said former selectman Steve Cartwright.
Cartwright said he believes the intentions were good, but the rules need to be followed.
“It’s important for the people of Waldoboro to know when they vote on an ordinance and it passes by a majority of the townspeople, that is basically the law of the land,” he said.
Planning board member Seth Hall commended the effort to bring business to town, but said “there was a little bit of a faux pas” in the execution.
Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs defended both her decision to bring the sign issue to the selectboard, and for requesting it be discussed in executive session.
“I have spent a good deal of time on what has been characterized as a violation of the ordinance and frankly I’ve been vilified in social media by certain members of this community, and I’m not pleased with it,” she said.
According to Briggs, the current ordinance does not address bringing the size of a sign to the town’s appeals board for a variance, and the only body responsible for dealing with a violation is the board of selectmen.
“When a violation is brought to you, you can do one of three things. You can ask for voluntary compliance, you can take that person in violation to court, or you can ignore the fact that the violation took place,” she said.
“Another option would have been come to the planning board and have them change the ordinance, and then go in front of the town and have them vote on it,” said planning board member Jody Perry. “I think that would have been the more proper thing to do.”
Selectman Ronald Miller said he would like to see the board of selectmen recommend the planning board revisit the sign requirements in the land use ordinance and take it to the town for a vote, but no action was taken.
Hall recommended the issue of whether a sign’s size can be addressed by the appeals board be looked into by the town attorney.
Briggs also pointed to a number of other Route 1 businesses she says has sign violations.
Of 37 Route 1 properties she looked into, Briggs said five had no sign permits whatsoever, three had no permits for a building-attached sign, five had no sign dimensions on the permit, nine were approved with sizes above the ordinance’s size limits.
“Of those 37 properties, 22 of them are in violation,” Briggs said. “I have said that it’s been done before, and I wanted numbers to back that statement. I’m not saying that it was right, I’m just saying it was done.”
“If our code enforcement officer or whoever is in that role is signing permits for things that are not allowed then they’re not enforcing the law and that needs to be reviewed,” said Cartwright. “The word ‘enforcement’ is important in the CEO job description.”
Cartwright also alleged the executive session to discuss the board’s options was improper, and Hall said he was “very disturbed that the board went into executive session.”
Briggs said the executive session was held “because it’s for economic development.”
In other business, the board voted to approve transferring $3,500 from the 2013-2014 planning budget to the comprehensive plan reserve fund.
Briggs said the town’s current comprehensive plan, approved in 1998, is “significantly out of date.”
Since the plan is supposed to look 5-10 years out at construction and development, and the town’s ordinances are supposed to be based on it, it is time for it to be revised, Briggs said.
In the board of selectmen’s elections, Clint Collamore was elected chair of the board, with Jann Minzy as vice chair. Ted Wooster was elected the chair of the board of assessors, with Ronald Miller as vice chair.