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Public comment questions Thomaston Select Board

By Christine Simmonds | Apr 27, 2021
Photo by: Christine Simmonds Thomaston Select Board meets via Zoom April 26.

Thomaston — At the end of the Thomaston Select Board meeting April 26, planning board member Charles Frattini expressed concerns during public comment.

Frattini said a letter issued to the board was not discussed or entered into public record.

The letter was from the planning board regarding the select board’s decision to not put a proposed land ordinance amendment before voters.

On April 7, the select board held a special meeting to finalize the municipal budget and the warrant articles for the June 8 election.

During that meeting, the board voted against putting a proposed amendment to the land ordinance before the voters.

The amendments would have changed zones and boundaries on High Street.

At the next select board meeting April 12, attorney Paul Gibbons told the board this specific proposed amendment was not legal, as it violated the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

Gibbons’ statement that the planning board acted illegally should be stricken from the minutes of April 12, Frattini said. The only illegal activity was the select board voting on the matter outside of a public hearing.

Frattini said the select board violated town procedure by holding an unscheduled discussion on the amendments.

Frattini further said select board member Bill Hahn should have recused himself from this vote, as his wife is a member of the comprehensive plan committee.

Frattini asked that the letter be entered into the public record.

He also asked that a memo sent by Gibbons be stricken from the record.

Select Board Chair Pete Lammert said he did not think the letter should be read into the record yet, as the town was still consulting with Gibbons about the matter.

The minutes from the meetings Frattini was talking about were not ready yet either, so Lammert said it was unclear what they said about Gibbons’ comments.

Town Manager Kara George said the town could not retract a memo from Gibbons.

Hahn said he did not think the planning board acted illegally, but he disagreed with the amendment. That was why he voted against the matter.

Planning Board Chair Joanne Richards told Hahn that while he may feel that way, the select board did not have authority to keep the issue from going before voters when it was proposed by the planning board.

The proper procedure would have been for the proposed amendment to go to a public hearing for discussion. The board could then discuss the removal of the item from the warrant, Richards said.

In an interview April 27, George said Gibbons did not accuse the planning board of acting illegally. He had said the proposed amendment to the land use ordinance did not match the Comprehensive Plan, and was not legal.

The Select Board also had the authority to determine what went on the town meeting warrant, George said.

George said both meetings Frattini mentioned were open to the public, properly advertised and followed Maine Municipal Association laws.

Public hearings were meant to hear public comments or questions about the warrant items, not to determine what items would be voted on by the public.

In other business, the board discussed joining the Midcoast Broadband Coalition.

There will be a public workshop with Brian Lippold of Casco Bay Advisors about municipal broadband at 5 p.m. This will be held over Zoom.

The board will be holding other public meetings regarding municipal broadband, but those dates and times have not been determined yet.

The select board and planning board will be returning to in person meetings starting May 10.

On May 5, the board will have a public hearing for the upcoming Town Meeting Warrant Articles, held over Zoom.

A second in person public hearing for the articles is scheduled for May 13 at 6 p.m. at the Municipal Building.

The board decided to try streaming future select board meetings using Town Hall Streams for at least the month of May.

An upcoming community picnic was rescheduled to May 31. It will be held at the Thomaston Green.

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