Boothbay Harbor Selectman Ken Fitch announced his resignation Sept. 28 after closing on the sale of his Union Street properties Sept. 25. Fitch said he will be closing on a home in Westbrook Oct. 16 and will formally give his resignation Oct. 31 since he will no longer be a resident of Boothbay Harbor.
“This has not been an easy decision for me. This has been very, very tough for a lot of reasons. One reason is this board. This is a wonderful board, a wonderful group to work with … But life goes on and changes have to happen and this is a very important change for me.”
Said Chair Mike Tomko, “We definitely appreciated working with you and we're going to be working you for the next two meetings at least with maybe some roasting along the way as well.”
Town Manager Julia Latter said the board will run with four members until May when an election will take place in conjunction with the annual town meeting. The election will be considered a special election as the person to replace Fitch will finish out the remaining year of his term.
Planning board chair Tom Churchill presented four ordinance changes his board has been discussing: housing, transportation, energy and communications, and a harbor master plan. Churchill said the board felt the next step would be for selectmen to allocate funds to hire a professional to advise on language to get at the roots of the problems.
Churchill said housing is the most obvious issue which has been magnified since March when the pandemic struck. Board Vice Chair Tricia Warren said from speaking to visitors in the workplace and with local real estate people, homes have been seeing less than one-week turnaround on sales at asking prices or better. Long and short-term rentals for seasonal workers, single families and the elderly who want to age in place and housing availability have regressed recently due to the conversion of single family homes into Air BnB-type rentals, Churchill added.
Churchill asked for around $15,000 to secure the consultant, but said funds aside, the most important thing is the right process. Selectmen said next steps will be for the planning board and code enforcement officer to craft a request for proposal which will come from a more refined plan. Churchill agreed and said he would come back from meeting with CEO Geoff Smith with a formal request for any funds the board will need to create an RFP.
Selectmen Warren, Wendy Wolf and Denise Griffin supported pursuing a two-foot increase in height for the bridge, to factor in storm surge and sea level rise. However, Fitch was adamant the focus should be keeping as much of the bridge as it is and that replacement of caps and timbers as discussed before would give the bridge a boost of one foot.
“That's not two feet … I think we have to repair or replace. We were going down the road of repair and that's why we had an assessment done. Now we're talking about replacing … When you start to physically change the look, that is a replacement of what is there. That is very different than repairing what is there. That is something we need to be careful of.”
While other board members disagreed with Fitch's use of the word “replace,” bridge-house owners Pam Burke and Alan Miller agreed the board needs to be careful about distinguishing between repairing and replacing.
Tomko said the board will pursue advice from project engineers on whether or not an increase in height and width is necessary considering guidelines on storm surge and sea level rise and compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.
This article has been updated since its original posting.