2017-12-15 / Front Page

Input sought on Arundel town hall

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — Now that the vision of a new municipal building for the town of Arundel has passed from concept to reality, following closing Dec. 5 on a 48-acre parcel off Limerick Road, selectmen have set their sights on what that new office might look like.

“I have some thoughts on what a building in that location should look like,” Town Manager Keith Trefethen said at the selectboard’s Dec. 11 meeting. “I think it should look different than something you’d put on Route 1. I think it needs to have more of a rural character. I have some distinct ideas on that, but I don’t want to throw out things that aren’t going to resonate with the board or the public and whatever input you want there. But whatever you want to do, we are ready, willing and able to move forward.”

“I think it should have the look of a barn [structure],” selectman Jason Nadeau said, a thought echoed by selectman Dan Dubois.

“I think the first thing we need to do is get a design professional on board,” chairman Thomas Danylik said. “There’s no sense throwing out ideas if there’s no one there who can implement them. We need to have someone to work with whatever committee we put together, with an eye toward making it look like a municipal building, basically.”

“I think we can wait a little bit on an architect or designer,” Nadeau said “I’d hate to pay someone to just come here and sit for two or three meetings while we work to compile a list of necessities in that building.”

Selectmen agreed provisionally to create a 10-person committee to draft a needs assessment for the new town office, with the first five seats filled by the five members of the selectboard. That done, the committee will work with a professional to help bring those expectations to life.

However, the board agreed that their first priority is the annual budgeting process, due to begin in early January and last through mid-March, at least. The committee will be formed and given its marching orders sometime after that, both Danylik and Trefethen agreed.

Until then, anyone interested in joining the town hall building committee should contact Trefethen by emailing townmanager@arundelmaine.org or calling 985-4201.

If the building committee does not begin its work until March, that could make for a tight timeline to bring a bond proposal to voters at the annual town meeting in June.

Arundel first formed a building committee in 2009 to assess whether the existing town hall, located behind the fire station at the corner of Limerick and Mountain Roads was up to snuff.

Built in the late 1800s as a public gathering spot then known as Parvo Hall, the building is said to be cramped, with limited parking and no easy way to make the second floor handicapped accessible, along with a reported “moisture problem” that endangers documents in the town vault Selectman Velma Hayes also has cited a “growing mold problem” at past public meetings, while Town Clerk Simone Boissonneault said at a 2016 public hearing, only half-jokingly, “When I have to go down into the basement, I flick the lights first and make noise to scare the mice away,”

In early 2014, selectmen accepted plans for an 8,000-square-foot town hall, then pegged at about $1.8 million to construct.

Trefethen said he will share those plans with the new committee as starting point. However, whatever the committee comes up with is not bound by that earlier document, he said. Selectmen Dan Dubois stressed while the plan and its square footage have been cited many times in the Post, that design, “was conceptual only.”

“I asked all of the employees who work in the [current] building to provide to me their thoughts on square footage needs,” Trefethen told selectmen on Monday. “I’ve also looked at industry standards based on what square footage should be for each entity that’s utilizing it, and I come up with 7,000 square feet. Some of your analysis were about 7,400 to 7,800 square feet. So, we’re in the ballpark between 7,000 and that infamous 8,000 square foot number that’s been thrown around from time to time.”

Through a series of public hearings and executive sessions meetings during 2015 and 2016, selectmen weighed as many as six potential sites for a new town hall. Ultimately, the board settled on a 39-acre parcel on Limerick Road offered by Steve and Margo Emerson. At the annual town meeting this past June, voters agreed to spend $375,000 to buy the parcel, with $175,000 to by chipped in by the newly-formed Arundel Conservation Trust (ACT).

The balance of the year was spent examining the site — work that included the discovery by the town’s contracted engineering firm, Sebago Technics, that it actually measures 48 areas

— and working out the division of the lot between the town and ACT.

During a Nov. 13 meeting, selectmen hammered out a dividing line for the property, with the 10 acres closest to the road slated to stay in town hands, and the rest going to ACT. However, Trefethen later discovered the town has a clause in its land use ordinance forbidding the creation of “land-locked” parcels, a proviso which includes a requirement that all new property lots must have a minimum of 50 feet of road frontage.

That prompted an emergency meeting on Nov. 21. At that session, selectmen and ACT board members agreed to resolve the dilemma by adding a so-called “spaghetti strip” to ACT’s portion of the property.

That 50-foot-wide strip will start closest to the 1-acre house lot owned by Toby Kracht, then wind around the boundary of the Kracht home to the northern sideline of the town lot, then run along that line to the ACT section. In order to keep the portion to be retained by the town at 10 acres, the loss of the 37,100-squarefoot spaghetti strip required that the line between the town hall site and the ACT conservation land be moved back slightly — between 25 and 50 feet.

At the Nov. 27 session, selectmen and ACT board members also agreed to a “collaborative agreement” between the two entities, meant to govern rights and responsibilities of both sides going forward. Under those terms, while ACT now has 50 feet of frontage on Limerick Road leading to its 37.67-acre backlot, it will not use that strip of land for access. Instead, the plan is to have one driveway leading to the new town hall, then running from the parking lot there to a second parking area for visitors to the ACT site and its anticipated network of hiking trails.

The agreement stipulates that ACT will get to use unbuilt portions of the town hall property — unless and until utilized for additional construction, such as a police station, or other municipal use — for its events, which could include (though not necessarily be limited to) a farmers market, community gardens, holiday tree lightings, a variety of festivals or trail races.

Selectmen also agreed to provide on their 10-acre piece facilities for ACT, to include a deeded right of way to the trailhead parking lot, bathrooms open to the public from dawn to dusk, and lighting for the bathrooms and parking areas, along with “separate and distinct lighted” signage on Limerick Road identifying the ACT land and its access to the Eastern Trail and the Kennebunk River.

That access is a final sticking point to the deal. To gain rights from its lot to nearby amenities, including the Eastern Trail and the Kennebunk River, ACT needs to sign an easement deal with the abutting property owner — selectman Phil Labbe.

According to ACT board chairman Joan Hull, Labbe did not ask for any money from ACT to allow a public travel across his lot on two paths — one leading to the Eastern Trail, the other to the river — each said to be about 200 feet long. However, Hull said the agreement with Labbe includes a prohibition on ACT cutting any trees larger than 5 inches in diameter to build its access trails, and allowance that, although the ACT trails will not be open to motorized traffic, Labbe family members will be permitted to cross them on ATVs, in order to access both sides of their property.

Although the town’s purchase and sale agreement with the Emersons had a Nov. 30 deadline, the deal closed, signed by all parties on Dec. 5.

“Things went well at the closing as all groups were satisfied with the process and were willing to sign all documents,” Trefethen said.

“This critical first step has been accomplished with such a spirit of mutual cooperation and future-thinking,” ACT board member Jack Reetz said. “ACT looks forward to working on more such community building projects with the town.”

“Now the real work begins”, said Hull. “ACT is a brand-new conservation trust and we need help from everyone in the Arundel community. We’ll be actively pursuing grants and fundraising and building our community membership. We hope to start laying out trails and constructing our trail system next spring. ACT is looking for volunteers to help us in everything we do, so please call or email and join us.”

To get started, ACT organized under the umbrella of the longstanding Kennebunkport Conservation Trust. That group fronted funds for ACT’s $175,000 share of the transaction. ACT is now working to raise money to repay that loan. Anyone interested in donating to that cause, or volunteering for future maintenance and trail-building projects on ACT’s first 37.67-acre acquisition should email info@arundeltrust.org or call 967-3465, ext. 6.

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

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