OWLS HEAD — The Select Board took heat Wednesday evening for its decision last month not to renew Ken Wexler to two boards that he had served on for years.

Wexler attended the Nov. 9 Select Board meeting and criticized the board for its Oct. 17 decision not to renew his appointment. The Owls Head Select Board voted unanimously Oct. 17 to appoint Maria Devery as a full member of the Planning Board. She had been serving as an alternate.

Wexler had served on the Planning Board since 2013.

The town also did not reappoint him to the Owls Head Airport Advisory Committee, which he had served on for about 20 years.

“I think I was an effective advocate for the town, its quality of life and its precious environment,” Wexler said.

He pointed out the town took its action last month in five minutes without an explanation. He said he had heard that Select Board member Linda Post was upset that he and Planning Board member Russell Wolfertz had filed an appeal to court that would require the Zoning Board of Appeals to hear their appeal of an airport hangar project approved by the Planning Board. Wexler said they were not suing the town but simply asking the Zoning Board to do its job.

The Select Board gave no reason at the Oct. 17 meeting on why they did not reappoint Wexler. Post told Wexler at the Nov. 9 meeting that his term had expired and the board has the authority to appoint members.

Select Board member Tom Von Malder said he voted for a new member because he felt it was a conflict of interest for Wexler to be developing ordinances on the committee working during a 6-month moratorium on airport projects because those proposed ordinances would then go to the Planning Board.

Wexler survived an effort last year to have him and Russell Wolfertz removed from the Planning Board.

Attorney Kristin Collins, who represented Christina and Jeff Woodman, who wanted to have an events center at their Ash Point Farm, had asked the Owls Head Select Board to remove the two members from the town’s Planning Board. Collins claimed Wexler was behind a mailing to town residents before a town meeting that she contended disparaged the proposed events center, and included false and misleading information. She also said he had fought the project at every step.

Wexler denied the claims and said last year that he has a Constitutional right to express his opinions. The Select Board voted unanimously not to remove Wexler or Wolfertz from the Planning Board.

The center was eventually approved.

Wexler asked the board members at the Nov. 9 meeting who was pulling the string for his removal, asking if it was the county or the events center owners.

“You ask for transparency for boards but you operate in the dark,” Wexler said.

Wolfertz also spoke out at the Nov. 9 meeting, saying the treatment of Wexler — who has served the town for a long time — was wrong. He had raised the question of the ability to recall Select Board members but acknowledged that there is no current ordinance that allows that.

Board Chair Gordon Page agreed there was no recall mechanism, pointing out that state law only allows for removal of a Select Board member, in the absence of a local ordinance, if the person is convicted of a crime and the victim of the crime is the town.

“Tom Von Malder could go out and shoot someone and not be removed from office because the town was not the victim,” Page said.

Von Malder told people they should feel safe because he does not have a gun.

Short-term rentals

The Select Board also heard discussion from the public about the possibility of regulations of short-term rentals.

Resident Pamela Maus asked the Select Board to appoint a committee that would study the issue of whether there should be regulations on short-term rentals. She had raised the issue earlier in the year but the Select Board did not act on her request.

Comments from the public at the Nov. 9 meeting were largely in opposition to regulations.

Annie Higbee said there are no problems with short-term rentals in Owls Head.

Carolyn Philbrook said she operates a short-term rental and she is opposed to more regulations. She said people have been renting out homes for short terms for 150 years.

“That is how some people can afford to keep their properties,” she said.

Mike Keating said he operates long-term rentals and he also sees no need for more regulations.

Bill Leppanen said there are four to five residences in his neighborhood that are short-term rentals and there are no problems. He said owners are keeping up the properties. He said he too opposed more regulations.

Wolfertz said he knows of a place that is rented that has code issues.

Maus said the town should study the matter to determine the impact on the community.

The board ultimately agreed not to take any action. Von Malder told Maus she could study the issue and bring her findings to the town.

Post said the town does not have the staff to inspect short-term rentals, and that the town does not inspect long-term rentals or even require occupancy permits for residences.

Ken Wexler is pictured here at an earlier Select Board meeting. Photo by Stephen Betts