LINCOLNVILLE — Select Board members wrestled with the idea of forming an affordable housing committee and discussed options for installing sidewalks in and around the town center at their Oct. 24 meeting.

Both issues were raised by Comprehensive Planning Board Chair Susan Silverio. She informed the board that the formation of an affordable housing committee was part of Lincolnville’s 2006 comprehensive plan, and further advised that such a committee would need to be appointed in order to turn in the plan currently being authored by the Comprehensive Planning Committee. Silverio also noted that the 2006 Comprehensive Plan included sidewalks in the town center.

Board members agreed that affordable housing is a significant issue in Lincolnville. They differed on the best approach to the problem, and whether a committee was needed at this time.

“(An affordable housing committee) is an idea that has a lot of merit,” said board Chair Ladleah Dunn. “As low-impact as I think (an affordable) committee could be, no committee is no-impact to staff, facilities and resources.”

Dunn noted the Select Board has a backlog of work, much of it hampered by the pandemic, and urged board members to consider an affordable housing committee at their Dec. 5 priority-setting workshop.

Select Board member Josh Gerritsen noted the idea of an affordable housing committee had come up in prior months and expressed confidence residents would step forward to populate a committee.

“This isn’t a new challenge,” Gerritsen said. “This was in our 2006 comprehensive plan. We all agree affordable housing is a problem, a crisis really, nationwide, and Lincolnville is not an exception. I’m not concerned about finding people to serve on an (affordable) housing committee. People are drawn to committees based on their interests. I think it’s too important an issue to wait any longer.”

Board member Steve Hand advocated a different approach.

“Any individual town is not going to solve this problem,” Hand said. “We’re really going to have to think about this on a regional level. We would probably get more bang for our buck if we cooperated on this with Hope, Camden, Northport and our surrounding communities.”

Board member Mike Ray suggested drafting a charge to form an committee in order to “get the ball rolling,” on consideration of the committee, or alternatives, considered at the Select Board’s priorities workshop.

Board members agreed that more information was necessary before appointing an affordable housing committee and that it would be among the priorities considered at the Dec. 5 workshop.

Silverio urged the board to consider another part of the 2006 Comprehensive Plan on the issue of sidewalks in the center.

“Could we just do what it says in the (2006) Comp Plan,” Silverio said, “which is investigate building a sidewalk? What would be the minimal, what would be acceptable, to assure the kids don’t have to take their lives in their own hands when they walk around town? Can we talk to the DOT and see what might be possible?”

Silverio referred to a summer 2001 visit by DOT representative Steven Cole. Cole, along with town representatives, walked the road from Breezemere Park to the Community Building to the Town Office. Cole offered several options including an extended shoulder and noted that funding was available.

Dunn pointed out the complications that can arise in DOT-funded projects.

“To participate in the DOT program and their funding,” said Dunn, “you must engage their designers, and their engineers, and it must meet their standards.”

Dunn added that even with the 80/20 DOT funding split, projects remain expensive, particularly in small towns.

“If you’re going to participate in their funding programs, it has to be a particular design and it’s a significant build. It’s still a scary number,” Dunn said.

DOT also suggested doing the project in phases. Lincolnville currently has funding to construct a sidewalk from the Boathouse to Breezemere Park. Dunn said this project could be considered a first step.

“If we can approach this in a piece-by-piece way,” Dunn said, “then maybe we can come up with a way to afford it.”

Selectman Keryn Laite suggested the town explore alternate routes as options.

“I was at the meeting with the DOT and I had a lot of questions about alternate routes,” Laite said. “There’s a nature trail that goes from the library to the school. I asked the DOT if they participated in programs that would make that trail safer. I was surprised his answer was yes. In my mind we need to think outside the box to preserve what we have and use what we have.”

With funding secured for the first step and consensus that a long-range plan is necessary, Town Administrator David Kinney said the next step is natural.

“The bigger picture of sidewalks in the center,” Kinney said, “is that it dovetails nicely into what the Comprehensive Plan is could or would or should be doing as they move forward.”