'Sign' of discord heard in Waldoboro
Waldoboro — Debate June 24 over the new Family Dollar store sign led town officials into a wider discussion of how the town's sign ordinance is ignored in some cases.
"We know where that paved road leads," said resident Steve Cartwright, who voiced his dismay at the way Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs and the Board of Selectmen conducted themselves during their meeting June 10.
At that meeting, a discussion ensued regarding a proposed 76-square-foot sign for the Family Dollar that is slated to be built on Route 1 across from Harold C. Ralph.
The limit — as set by the 2005 Land Use Ordinance, which was voted on by the citizens of Waldoboro — is 36 square feet.
An executive session was called due to a discussion of economic development, and Briggs and the selectmen went behind closed doors.
"I gave the board background on what I knew of the ordinance, and asked them to consider the state of the highway as it exists," said Briggs in an interview June 19.
When the board came out of executive session, it made a motion to waive the ordinance — which, some argue, it did not have any authority to do.
"I understand people feel something was done behind their backs," said Briggs. "I meant it to be brought out into the open — we've allowed this to continue." She added, "They need to decide to act or not on a violation of an ordinance."
Seth Hall, chairman of the Planning Board, commended Briggs for trying to bring business into Waldoboro.
"However, there was a bit of a faux pas in the execution," said Hall.
Hall said the planning board had met with representatives of Family Dollar and discussed the size of the sign as 36 square feet not 75. "We encouraged them to apply for a variance, which was the right process," he said.
Hall further stated that if the select board "does the right thing and rescinds the motion to approve" they can then move forward and "play by the rules."
"We don't need noise," said Hall. "We have a lot of work to do."
Following a unanimous vote to rescind the motion to ignore the town sign ordinance, Briggs addressed the audience.
"I have been vilified on social media by some members of this community, and frankly I'm not pleased with it," said Briggs.
She noted the ordinance, as written, does not allow the planning board to deny or allow variances, nor does it address bringing sign sizes to an appeals board. She said the only body with the responsibility to uphold compliance of the ordinance is the select board.
"The only three things discussed in that executive session were: do we ask for voluntary compliance, if that doesn't happen do we take them to court or do we ignore it," said Briggs.
Briggs presented some research she conducted since that June 10 meeting.
She looked at 37 businesses in Waldoboro and found five had no sign permit issues, three had no permit for attachment on the building, five listed no sign dimension on the application, and nine had been approved for sizes outside the ordinance size limitation.
"That's 22 of 37 who are in violation," said Briggs, who added because the town does not do inspections some of those remaining 15 businesses may be in violation.
"I'm not saying it was right, just that it was done," said Briggs.
As recently as January 2014, a sign of 67 square feet for Car Quest, which relocated down Route 1, was approved by the Code Enforcement Officer at that time, Willa Antczak.
"There is no place in the ordinance for a variance," explained Briggs.
Briggs also noted that since its inception in 2005, the ordinance has been revisited and/or amended seven times — never once was the sign size limitation or violations addressed.
Also at the June 24 meeting, the select board elected Clint Collamore as chairman and Jann Minzy as vice chairman. Ted Wooster was elected chairman of the Board of Assessors, and Ron Miller was elected vice chairman.
The board of selectmen unanimously approved a special amusement permit for the Harvest Moon to supply mood music for its diners.
A proposal to purchase a new ambulance was withdrawn after discovering the selected vehicle would not completely serve the intended purpose for the Emergency Medical Services.
Hall was the high bidder on tax-acquired property at 492 Gross Neck Road. Taxes due on the property are approximately $4,000. Hall bid $5,100.
A discussion of cemetery maintenance disclosed there are more than 100 cemeteries in Waldoboro. Beginning Aug. 1, it will be the municipalities responsibility to be sure proper maintenance is being done for the graves of veterans as some of the current associations cannot cover the cost of said maintenance.
Assessor Darryl McKenney noted some of the cemeteries are back in the woods and in family grave yards. He said there needs to be some updated mapping, identifying and moving forward.
The next scheduled meeting of the select board is Tuesday, July 8 at 6 p.m.
Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at email@example.com.
594-4401 ext. 125
Beth rejoined Courier Publications' news staff in February 2013. She previously worked at The Courier-Gazette from 1981 to 1990.
Her coverage area includes Warren, Union, Friendship, Waldoboro, Washington, and Thomaston and RSU40.
Beth has a passion for photography, and a degree from the University of Maine at Augusta, in affiliation with the Maine Photographic Workshop in Rockport.
Aside from photography, Beth enjoys running and walks along the waterfront, as well as other outdoor activities. She has a daughter, Claire, who is 15.