Blasting, historical register hot topics for board

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 1:00pm

Blasting and a potential project with Boothbay Harbor’s historic buildings and sites dominated discussion for the planning board June 12.

Resident Jane Carpenter brought forward concerns at the March meeting about blasting and a lack of notification of neighbors of planned blasting sites. Since the meeting, a subcommittee of board members, Carpenter and longtime area contractor Elbridge Giles has been meeting and discussing possible solutions.

“It is true that we have no ordinances in the town of Boothbay Harbor that cover blasting whatsoever,” said Hamblen. “(CEO) Geoff Smith has had calls when people hear blasting going off and he is unable to respond to them because he doesn't know, doesn't have any information.”

The board reviewed ordinances and permits from many Maine towns, and found Kennebunkport’s language inspires a starting point for Boothbay Harbor. Hamblen and the rest of the board agreed something shorter than what the other towns had or what town attorney John Cunningham suggested would likely give the town what it is looking for – simplicity.

Board members and Smith agreed the desired result is to establish standards which require notification of nearby residences and proper posting of blast sites prior to and during blasting events. Smith said from his office's perspective, all he wants is to know “who, what, where and when.” Otherwise, Smith said asking for notification is reasonable, but creating a pre-blast or post-blast survey is likely unnecessary.

Giles also endorsed the idea of a simple and short ordinance because the more detail an ordinance goes into, the more difficult the process becomes and the less likely the board will forward any language for a vote. “What (Geoff) needs is what he's talking about and that's basically it.”

“So you wouldn't have any problem with a notification part of this,” asked Hamblen.

“I don't have a problem anyway. I don't do it anymore,” said Giles.

Churchill said the board will not get into permit language so much as it will ordinance language which gives any permitting process the power it needs for the CEO to enforce the rules. Smith will be drafting language for a permit based on the criteria the board felt were important.

Board members Chris Swanson and Margaret Perritt were tasked with researching the need and how to form a local register for historically important buildings and sites in town. Swanson said some people may be aware of much of the town's history, but most, especially visitors, are not, so it will be important to find a way to identify, preserve and celebrate Boothbay Harbor's cultural and architectural heritage.

Goals include determining the historical value of structures and sites, developing a register, identifying sites with numbered and informational placards, and developing a walking tour and interactive maps on the town's website.

“These goals play right into our comp plan of 2015 which specifically mandates the creation of this register during 2015-2016,” said Swanson.

As Swanson and Perritt continued research, Smith visited Belfast which he revealed has many of these features for its buildings and sites of historical value. Swanson and Perritt found that several Maine towns including Thomaston, Wiscasset, Augusta and Bar Harbor, many states and several European countries including France and Italy do, too.

Said Swanson, “They are all part of this program called ‛Museum in the Streets.’ There's an entire process you can go through in coordination with them to get exactly what we were talking about.”

Swanson and Perritt said they have not yet spoken with the Boothbay Region Historical Society on this idea, but imagine it would play an important role on a future committee as would members from the planning board and board of selectmen among others from the community.

Select Board Chair Mike Tomko said Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission's Mary Ellen Barnes was involved with Wiscasset's Museum in the Streets as a resident and suggested her as a resource for navigating the process. Depending on size, price and location of signs, the maximum price was around $1,000 per sign with some significantly less in cost, said Tomko. Tomko also mentioned that in the previous budget cycle, the capital improvement decision matrix which was developed ranked such a project as a high priority due to its relatively easy attainability.

Swanson suggested the board's next step would be to coordinate with selectmen to find out if there is enough interest in the project for funding. If not, Swanson said, then the project could find life with the Historical Society and private donors.

Other news and announcements

Churchill announced 8 Wharf Street LLC has revoked its amendment to the approved 2017 application for construction at the old Romar Bowling Alley. Smith explained that the 2017 application is still viable until April 2020, but he does not think the recently revoked amendment will be the last the board will see of the issue as completion of the project by deadline is not likely.

The board unanimously elected Smith board secretary.