2017-12-01 / Front Page

Numbering woes coming to King’s Hwy

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — The most recent meeting of the Kennebunkport Board of Selectmen lasted just 40 minutes, but about 30 minutes of that time was taken up by one issue — the renumbering of homes on King’s Highway.

Brendan Donovan, who has lived on King’s Highway since 2007, appeared before selectmen and pointed out that there are about 240 homes along one of the town’s oldest roads.

A 1970 report of the Maine Department of Transportation on the history of Maine roads reports that the King’s Highway was first laid out by commissioners from the governing Massachusetts Bay colony in 1653, although its lofty name notwithstanding, it was initially “nothing more than two cart wheel ruts with a horse path in the middle.”

At their Sept. 28 meeting, selectmen agreed to take the advice of the town’s public safety committee to “review all streets in town and correct all known problems, either by renumbering and/or potentially renaming streets to me in compliance with state of Maine 911 guidelines.”

Although that promised to be a process town addressing officer James Burrows likened to “a root canal,” the board agreed the numbering of homes along the road had become what Selectman Allen Daggett called “an everyday confusion.”

He owns Cape Porpoise Lobster Co., located at 70-R Mills Road.

“But there’s also a 70 Mills,” he said. “So, where does the UPS man go, where does the FedEx man go? The other gentleman gets our mail. It’s confusing.”

According to Burrows, Kennebunkport was actually “ahead of the curve” when in 1990 in began the process of renumbering and, in some cases, renaming streets in order to comply with 911 addressing — a system approved by the state legislature just two years earlier in order to automatically convey an address to emergency responders when placing that all-important call to 911.

“There has been very little guidance from the state as this was a new concept for all municipalities,” Burrows wrote in a September 21 memo to the board. “Based on information given, addressing officials moved forward with the numbering of homes in a way that seemed efficient most efficient at that time.”

It was not until 1997 when the state issued its first manual of standards and practices for addressing officers. But that guide came along three years after Kennebunkport had finished the laborious task on its own.

“We’ve worked to address issues as we’ve seen them, but there was not that flexibility in the numbering system we had in place and that’s resulted in out-of-sequence numbers, rear lot designations, or As and Bs on top of numbers,” Smith said.

King’s Highway is “kind of the pinnacle of all those situations,” Smith said, noting that “condos have split houses” on some lots, and some driveways have been moved to side streets, while on other lots, “what were garages have become homes.”

Town Manager Laurie Smith pointed out that people often develop an “emotional attachment” to their house numbers. But she and other town officials understand the change means more than getting used to a new numbers. “It changes their banking, it changes their deed, it changes their mortgage,” she said.

In testament to that fact, Smith said some grumbling was heard about the renumbering project even before the September vote to proceed.

“I recently had correspondence from an individual who would be impacted who wanted a 5 percent tax reduction because of the re-numbering and the inconvenience factor,” she said.

Donovan didn’t say if he was that homeowner, but at the Nov. 9 board meeting he argued that only between 15 and 20 homes actually require a change of house number. Renumbering the entire street is overkill, he said.

“That’s less than 10 percent of the total. I’m openly curious why that 10 percent — by my calculation actually 6.3 percent — should affect the remaining 92 percent,” he said. “If we lived in a true democracy, it’s the majority that prevails.

“If the average tax bill is approximately $10,000 along King’s Highway, that’s $2.4 million in revenue coming into the town,” Donovan said. “I think it’s common courtesy that you at least have an open discussion.”

“We have an ordinance that was approved by the townspeople and this is the way you would proceed in doing this [renumbering],” replied Patrick Briggs, chairman of the board of selectmen. “We’ve kept it open and aboveboard. Everybody has the opportunity weigh in. What we’re struggling with is this idea that there should be no adverse impact to any of the residents along King’s Highway.”

Donovan, who said he works in the mortgage field, submitted a package of information to selectmen, which included his estimate of the cost to homeowners to update all of their relevant home and financial information subsequent to a change of house number.

“We’ve checked with lawyers and also with banks and there didn’t seem to be the same level of concern that you’re pointing out,” Briggs said. “Not to say you’re right or wrong, but the value of the property hasn’t changed. The location of the property hasn’t changed. And an adjustment is not unheard of.”

Selectman Sheila Matthews-Bull, who owns and operates the Rhumb Line Resort, said the address of her inn, including the road name, has changed “four times over the last 30 years.”

“And the only thing we had to do, really, was change our stationary,” she said. “From my experience, it was not a big issue.”

Matthews-Bull said the concern is not only the prevalence of odd house numbers as they exist now, but the possibility of additional lot divisions in many parts of town that could compound issues down the road, so to speak.

“There are large pieces of land that have not been parceled yet,” she said. “The longer we wait, the more people will be affected.”

“I sympathize with you, but I think this is for the greater good,” Selectman Ed Hutchins said. “You’re not the only one this is going to happen to. King’s Highway is not the only road that is going to be affected by this.”

Still, Donovan questioned why selectmen should start with King’s Highway.

“Of the 240 addresses, you only have 15 [that need renumbering], which is only 6.3 percent of the total,” he said. “Could you please find me another street that has a ratio that is significantly better.”

“That’s irrelevant,” Hutchins said. “If only 15 percent of your body had cancer, you’d still want it removed.”

“Yes, but we’re not talking death here,” Donovan said.

“But you might be,” Selectman Stuart Barwise said. “We’re talking about an ambulance rolling up to an address that may be confusing. It’s important to consider that we’ve been requested this by our EMS director. That carries a lot of weight.”

“All I want is an open discussion,” Donovan said.

Deciding who ultimately gets what number will be the work of the public safety committee, which includes Fire Chief Allan Moir, Police Chief Craig Sanford, and Public Works Director Michael Claus, as well as Joseph Carroll, chief of operations for Kennebunkport Emergency Management Services.

Burrows has said he can not predict when the new numbering scheme would be in place, or when residents would be notified of the changes. However, he said he was hopeful of confining the updates to King’s Highway.

“Not if I can help it,” he said, when asked if any other streets would undergo the same review.

“For the majority of the streets, I see no reason for changing the method we are using based on 100-foot intervals,” he said. “It’s working. In fact, the system we have has worked for the most part for 25 years.”

However, Smith said the most imminent changes are only the tip of the renumbering iceberg.

“We’ll be starting on King’s Highway and moving out from there,” she told selectmen, noting that in more developed areas of town, house numbers might be reserved for every 25 to 50 feet of road frontage, to account for future development, so that where numbers are changed, “they won’t have to go through this again.”

“It’s going to be a big job and it’s going to impact a lot of people,” she said.

Burrows said that as addressing officer he will be “the whipping boy,” for any homeowners disgruntled by the committee’s new numbering and naming conventions. Smith will be the person to whom residents can appeal a new designation. And, if any resident is still not satisfied, selectmen will be the avenue of final appeal, Smith said.

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

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