2017-06-23 / Community

Arundel votes reflect growth in community

Town meeting voters give nod to buying land for town hall move, funding second patrol deputy
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Voters in Arundel weigh in on one of 47 warrant articles during their annual town meeting, a two-hour session held Wednesday, June 14, in the Mildred L. Day School gymnasium. (Duke Harrington photo)Voters in Arundel weigh in on one of 47 warrant articles during their annual town meeting, a two-hour session held Wednesday, June 14, in the Mildred L. Day School gymnasium. (Duke Harrington photo)
ARUNDEL — Arundel is a small enough town that it still has a traditional New England-style town meeting, conducting all business – except elections to local office – at the annual session. But this year’s meeting made it clear the town is growing and on the move.

Nearly 100 residents gathered on Wednesday, June 14, in the gymnasium of the Mildred L. Day School to consider 47 warrant articles. Outside of setting the municipal budget, the most significant votes saw a clear majority of hands raised to OK spending $200,000 for a 6-acre parcel on Limerick Road — earmarked as site for a new town office — and $136,240 to have the York County Sheriff’s Office assign a second deputy to a full-time patrol beat in town.

During the course of the two-hour meeting, voters also approved $3.39 million in municipal spending for the upcoming fiscal season, to start July 1, which will be offset by $1.8 million in anticipated revenue over the course of the year.

Voters also gave the nod to a series of 11 edits to the town’s land use ordinances. After the meeting, selectman Thomas Danylik described the changes as “largely administrative,” reflecting an overhaul to zoning rules undertaken by the planning board over the past year, to bring the language in-line with state rules and to make the overall package more “user friendly.”

Still, that didn’t stop residents from scrutinizing the proposed rule changes, with questions chewing up the first 45 minutes of the meeting. Among the requested changes, voters agreed to reduce setbacks from intermittent streams; standardize the size of home occupation signs; create new fire protection performance standards; overhaul standards for stormwater management plans; add medical marijuana caregiver production facilities as a conditional use to some zones if at least 1,000 feet from a school, daycare, or church; eliminate the town’s natural resources conservation district zone; amend definitions and maps in shoreland zoning districts; create a farm retail conditional use, allow pet day care centers in some districts; amend the application procedure for conditional uses; and allow so-called in-law apartments.

Voters did, however, reject a call to reduce the number of residential building permits allowed per year from 40 to 32.

Although it took a few minutes to sort out the types of permits referred to in the town report, Town Clerk Simone Boissonneault said the town only issued 16 growth permits for new living units. Town Planner Tad Redway said the largest number of permits given in any year over the past decade was 26 in 2010. However, the town is required by the state to review is permit allowance periodically, he said.

“We want to grow responsibly, but I don’t understand why would we would want to discourage growth,” resident Sam Hull. “We should encourage it. We’re a very desirable area.”

“This town is growing,” agreed Wayne Monroe. “Why restrict this community?”

“We’ve been in a recession, which is why we’ve had so few permits, but we’re coming out of that now,” said Old Post Road resident Kevin Allen. “I say we stay at the 40 because bringing in more property value through more people building new homes in town would be a good way to pay off some of this RSU [regional school unit] money that’s going to be bumping our mil rate up drastically.”

In a June 16 interview, Town Manager Keith Trefethen said that while this year’s property assessments, along with disbursements from the Arundel Cottages TIF [tax increment financing] district, will not be finalized until August, he is currently estimating a 65 cent increase in the mil rate, from $15.12 to $15.77 per $1,000 of assessed value. The biggest portion of that is actually attributable to the new deputy voters agreed to hire.

“That will account for 33 cents of the increase,” Trefethen said.

Still, while both the board of selectmen and the budget board recommended against doubling the town’s contract deputy contingent, the issue was raised on the floor of last year’s town meeting, leaving voters this year ready to act now that they had a warrant article before them.

Sinnott Road resident David Berg drew a round of applause with an impassioned plea to his fellow voters to open up their wallets.

“When it comes to law enforcement we have not kept up with the times,” he said, citing U.S. Census Bureau figures which show Arundel has grown 217 percent since 1970, from a population of 1,300 to the 2015 estimate of 4,127. And yet, the town still retains just a single deputy for dedicated patrols of town.

“The time has come to provide proper police protection for our citizens.” Berg said. “Just like a new town hall, the time is long overdue. If you have a home valued at $200,000 and somebody breaks in, is it worth an extra $66 per year to have an officer there in a matter of minutes, as opposed to having a deputy or state trooper who could be coming form the other side of York County?”

The $136,240 will put a second deputy in Arundel for 40 hours each week and outfit him or her with a cruiser for three years.

The land purchase question for a new town office drew extended debate, but not because there was no stomach for it. Instead, voters expressed confusion over the wording of the associated warrant articles.

The first article laid out the deal — in which the town will partner with the newly-formed Arundel Conservation Trust (ACT) to buy a 35 acre lot on Limerick Road for $375,000. The town will keep between 6 and 8 acres as a town office site, paying $200,000, while ACT will retain the rest for $175,000. For its part of the purchase, ACT is backed by the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust and engage in fundraising to cover the bill. However, many voters interpreted the article as meaning the town would pay the full $375,000 and then sell ACT its share. What if the the new land trust was not able to foot that bill, they asked. Berg and several others made a case for amending the wording of the article to specify that deal would be a no-go if ACT fails to come through.

Citing the Maine Meeting Moderator’s Manual, meeting moderator Durward Parkinson said he would not allow the proposed amendment, saying it changed the article to greatly. However, he and Selectman Thomas Danylik both argued that the article actually said what voters wanted it to be, particularly due to a subsequent warrant article that capped the town expenditure to $200,000.

“The Kennebunkport Conservation Trust is letting us access their line of credit, so the money will be there on that day [of the sale],” Joan Hull assured her fellow residents, while speaking on behalf of ACT.

More than half the crown left after the town office and contract deputy votes, leaving the rest to handle the actual budget articles. Of those, about 35 people gutting it out all the way until Parkinson banged the gavel for adjournment.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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