2017-07-21 / Front Page

Town’s parks ordinance going back to voters

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Just days after Kennebunk voters approved a new parks ordinance, codifying rules and regulations for 19 parks and three public beaches in town, selectmen decided the new rules needed slight tweaking.

Those changes were finalized at the board’s July 11 meeting and will go to voters in November for a final OK.

As adopted in June, the ordinance says all parks and beaches “shall be closed from dusk until dawn.”

The requested change makes an exception for towns beaches, as well as Ethelyn Stuart Marthia Park, Tibbetts Plaza and the Waterhouse Center. The ordinance also says, “no person or organization shall bring, carry, or use in any way knives, or other weapons of any kind, or any fireworks or other explosive substance of any kind.”

If approved by voters, that sentence would be appended with the disclaimer, “unless otherwise permitted by law.”

State law allows possession of a knife with a blade smaller than four inches. But, technically, even a pocketknife is banned under Kennebunk’s new parks ordinance.

According to Town Manager Michael Pardue, appending the simple “unless otherwise permitted by law” tagline not only fixes that discrepancy, it also insures the town against any future changes to state or federal law.

“Obviously, the ordinance is not a static ordinance,” he said. “Federal and state laws may change. So, this allows it to remain dynamic in nature so that, should those laws change at a state or federal level, we don’t need to amend the ordinance.”

Selectman Shiloh Schulte noted that the new revision would automatically ban firearms from the park, should state law ever change to allow such a thing, without a need to call for a vote expressly saying so.

John Costin, a member of the town’s budget board, remained incredulous. How, he demanded to know of selectmen, could an ordinance pass final vetting to make the town meeting warrant, only to need an immediate edit?

“Mistakes happen,” he said. “We’re all human. But I know in my business I like to know how it happened. I think it’s a big thing to put something in front of the voters and then come back a week later and say we have to change that. How was it that this ordinance went to voters with basically incorrect wording?”

Pardue took the blame for missing that some parks may regularly host public events after sundown. Meanwhile, town attorney William Dale took credit for missing the conflict with state law — or, more accurately, assigned blame to an assistant.

“I didn’t [review the ordinance], somebody else in my office did and she apparently missed it,” he said.

Costin’s spouse, school board member Rachel Phipps, took the podium to observe that residents may often have reason to be in other parks after dark. Her own children, she said, often make use of the park across the street from their house to observe the night sky.

“Are families going to be able to enjoy our green spaces for stargazing, etc.?” she asked.

Pardue said that while being in the park after sundown would still be technically illegal, police officers may choose not to enforce the rule, as they see fit.

“I believe that law enforcement should always have discretion in how they handle laws and things that you are talking about,” Pardue said. “I think we have officers who are trained very well to use common sense and discretion.”

Selectman Dan Boothby said that if the new version of the parks ordinance still doesn’t quite fit the bill, it always be revised a third time.

“And if we find that something’s not working, we can always change it,” he said.

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

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