Approximately 75 voters convened at the Lincolnville Central School Feb. 13 and, despite debate on a few measures, eventually approved a special town meeting warrant that included relegating methadone and marijuana clinics to a section of Route 1 to transferring money to begin a town office renovation project.

The warrant also included amending town ordinances governing home occupations to ease some of the restrictions on setting up a home-based business; entering into a multi-year lease with the Lincolnville Historical Society for the use of the town-owned former Dean & Eugley property on Main Street; and authorizing the selectmen to sell 2.31 acres of tax-acquired land on South Cobbtown Road.

Limiting the siting of drug clinics to Route 1 is included in ordinance amendments that now govern where, and how, medical marijuana dispensaries and methadone clinics are established. The majority of voters approved the clinic amendments, with but three in opposition.

Such clinics will be allowed on Route 1 in a stretch south of the intersection of Beach Road (Route 173) and Route 1 to the Camden town line. Additionally, all signage and advertising for a medical marijuana dispensary is not to use the word “marijuana or cannabis, or any other word, phrase or symbol commonly understood to refer to marijuana unless such word, phrase or symbol is immediately preceded by the word medical in type and font that is at least as readily discernible as all other words, phrases or symbols on the sign,” according to the ordinance.

Last June, at annual town meeting, Lincolnville voters enacted a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities, as well as methadone clinics, in order to craft rules governing those facilities. Lincolnville had watched other communities grapple with the siting of such facilities and wanted to get the town better prepared for their possible arrival.

Lincolnville resident Robert Plausse commented on the communication of the ordinance development, saying it inadequately reached townspeople, especially those in the clinic zone. He said a letter should have been mailed from the town office to those citizens.

“I don’t have a problem with the content,” he said. “I have a problem with the communication.”

The motion to transfer $95,000 from Capital Investment Reserve to the Municipal Building Committee to use for preliminary design and permitting of a new or renovated town office drew more debate, as citizens weighed in with ideas on what to do with the cramped quarters. Some said a new town office should be built in the village, others said it should be expanded, and still others suggested the existing building should be demolished and an entirely new one constructed.

If the town wants to make any changes to the approximately 75 acres of town-owned land on which the school, town office and public works operations sit, it must file an amendment to an existing site location permit received from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. That permit was granted when the school was constructed almost 10 years ago. The permit amendment will cost approximately $50,000, and, according to town officials, must be obtained before anything else is developed on the property, including a proposed running track around the school’s ball field.

The transfer of money before the town on Feb. 13 included the expenditure for that permit amendment.

Lincolnville resident Paul Crowley said at the meeting he was the only member of the building committee who voted against the transfer of funds for the proposed purposes.

“If we have to spend that amount [$50,000], I’d find a different piece of land where we don’t need the permit,” he said, adding that spending money on siting a town office on Main Street in the Center would benefit the town more.

Lincolnville has been wrestling with the future of its town office, constructed in the 1980s just west of Lincolnville Central School on Route 235 in Lincolnville Center. While it was spacious two decades ago, the meeting room was subsequently appropriated for police and town manager offices, and storage room. The building is too small and unable to meet building and compliance codes, according to a 2009 Municipal Buildings Committee report, which recommended expansion.

But with a recession and skeptical town sentiment, the selectmen opposed placing more fiscal strain on taxpayers and chose not to place the $522,188 project before voters.

In March 2010, the selectmen asked the committee, which had been busy requisitioning contractors for a new fire station, to turn attention back to the town office project. The selectmen figured that lower interest rates and recession-priced construction costs signaled the right time to jump-start the process. They asked the committee to reexamine options for the town office.

This year, the committee said that 10 years of discussion has been long enough and the town should pursue making its town office compliant with federal regulations, and serve community needs for the next 20 to 25 years. The committee is asking the town now to start the project with design and engineering planning.

Total project cost, with contingency, is $769,311. Available funding, pending voter approval, would be to use $270,000 from Capital Investment Reserve, $212,000 from fire station building fund, $40,000 from the sale of the Center Fire Station, leaving a balance of $247,311 to fund, possibly with a bond. At a 4 percent interest rate with a 20-year term, the town could anticipate $18,180 in payments per year.

At the Feb. 13 meeting, Crowley likened the project to building a Taj Mahal.

“Doing an addition and renovation for $750,000 is not reasonable,” he said.

Committee member Jay Foster countered: “We are not looking to build a Taj Mahal. We are looking to improve the town office. We cannot go forward without moving money from capital for the permit.”

He said no plans had yet to fully materialize for the final building.

Lincolnville resident Tracy Colby said that the town office improvement cost in 2008 was $552,000 and that the voters turned it down three times.

“We wanted to keep it simple, not extravagant, and in our means,” she said.

Colby said the town had yet to justify whether the building needed to be made ADA compliant, or whether it was grandfathered because it was constructed prior to the federal act. She also advocated that the town conduct a needs assessment of staff.

“Do we need all the departments we have, or all the people in the town office,” she said.

Others said the town had a moral obligation to make the town office ADA compliant.

“We are not, N.O.T. grandfathered,” said Selectman Rosey Gerry. “If you don’t believe it, Farmington, Brunswick and Washington County have citations.”

Foster said $750,000 represented the entire project cost, whereas the $552,000 in 2008 was building-cost only. He said the final cost could go up or down, and said the time was opportune from a borrowing and business perspective to begin.

After Plausse asked Town Administrator David Kinney how much the town had in its capital reserve account [$310,000], he said: “We have close to half of what we need. Let’s get the project done before Doris Weed retires or we’ll never hear the end of it.”

The town voted by a show of hands to approve the motion, even though moderator Rick McKittrick offered voters the chance to cast ballots secretly. The town also voted to approve a multi-year lease with the Lincolnville Historical Society to use the former Dean and Eugley lot on Main Street. Crowley suggested just giving the lot to the historical society.

The historical society is acquiring the old Center School, a 19th-century, one-room schoolhouse that is across the street, next to the former fire station. The society wants to move the schoolhouse to the Dean and Eugley spot and renovate the building for community purposes, such as a library.

And finally, the town voted to sell tax-acquired property on South Cobbtown Road.

“What’s on the property,” one citizen asked.

“Trees,” said Gerry.

 

Lynda Clancy can be reached at lclancy@villagesoup.com, or 236-8511, ext. 304.