NEW GLOUCESTER — Town Manager Sumner Field III said Tuesday that town meeting voters approved easily by a show of hands four zoning ordinance amendments that included a new wind energy conversion ordinance.
The five-hour town meeting, attended by about 150 townspeople, ended at midnight Monday. During the final hour of the meeting, 16 warrant articles were adopted and one failed to pass.
Amendments to the zoning ordinance and town zoning map were related to the state-mandated Shoreland Zoning Act. The town has been out of compliance since July 1, 2009.
Voters agreed to amend the ordinance for well and septic setbacks to correspond to Maine’s plumbing code, which allows the 100-foot setback to be reduced for replacement systems, only if specific additional steps are taken to protect drinking water quality.
An amendment on the transfer of development rights was adopted without comment, Field said.
One of four articles dealing with the town’s cable television station, Channel 3, was defeated. The article dealt with franchise fee allocation.
Robert MacGregor, chairman of the Cable TV Committee, said Tuesday that he urged voters to defeat the article requesting that all funds not expended through the operating budget be returned to a capital reserve account.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a citizen petition to dedicate all franchise fees to the operating budget of Channel 3. And, by petition, voters OK’d designating the town cable television system as a public access station with all rights of free usage.
MacGregor said the public access portion would be operational by September after the committee develops policies. Currently, Channel 3 broadcasts government and educational programs.
Last year, selectmen denied offering the public access portion of the channel to the community, sparking a citizen-initiated petition effort.
Voters say no to $1.16 million
Earlier in the meeting, voters refused to raise money for seven major operational accounts, in protest of the proposed outsourcing of assessing, which called for eliminating the job held by Assessor’s Agent Nancy Pinette, a seven-year employee.
Voters declined to approve a total of $1.16 million, including the seven operational accounts, as well as insurance, Social Security, retirement and debt service.
Selectmen are tasked with coming up with another spending plan. The board will prepare for a special town meeting before July 1 to deal with the accounts that were not funded. They include selectmen, administration, town meetings/elections, tax assessment, code enforcement, legal expenses and unanticipated expenses.
Voters also tasked selectmen to come up with a plan to address a bucket loader that failed to pass inspection and needs $45,000 in repairs. The board will determine whether a new loader is warranted and the issue will be resolved at the special town meeting dealing with the other funding issues.
In voting down the operational accounts, townspeople said selectmen were not transparent and information was difficult to understand and often not available in a timely manner.
Others faulted the board for not speaking up to issues and leaving all comments to Chairman Steve Libby. People said they felt their opinions were not welcomed.