Ms. P explains it all
As you may recall, last winter, Ms. Pigette was lollygagging around at an undisclosed semi-tropical location where she had a bit of “work” done to erase some of the sags brought on by a lifetime of standing on the side of a major highway.
This winter, she is again at her post holding up a mailbox on Rt. 27, across the street from Joan Rittal’s home.
When Mother Nature gifted us several inches of Christmas snow followed by a deep freeze, La Belle Piggette was pelted with ice, snow, and sand. She is not amused.
When I stopped to wish her a Happy New Year, she just glared at me through a coating of ice and snarled.
“Happy New Year? Just look at me. I put on this fabulous red holiday gown for the holidays and what do I get from my adoring public? Diamonds? Furs? Dinner at The Thistle? No. I got slammed with ice and rude comments from plow truck drivers.”
“Happy New Year? Back at you, Buster.”
As she is in with the movers and shakers in our community, I wondered if she had any thoughts about the latest local controversy over requests to rezone the east side of Boothbay Harbor.
“Of course I do,” she said. Remember, I have a close connection to Boothbay Harbor as my creator, the late Chetley Rittal, used to own a boat shop there. You could say my DNA came from the Harbor’s shore.”
I paused for a moment, then asked her what her sources had to say about the recent community meeting to discuss the Harbor’s east side. She explained that while lots of people chimed in, many argued we ought to do something and that something is to allow Paul Coulombe to spend a few million building a new resort.
“While it is good to have folks stand up and talk about the Coulombe proposal,” she said, “the smart guys in the room were listening.”
And, the guy they were listening to was Bob Faunce, our official Lincoln County Planner who rattled off statistics projecting that by 2030, the Boothbay Harbor population will shrink from 2,000 to around 1,400. Why is the population shrinking? Don’t people just love our seaside community with its great seafood and New England charm?
“Well, Buster,” she snapped as a pickup truck sent a cluster of ice/snow/sand over her left knee. “The tourist trade is fine, but the people moving here are O-L-D. Our median age is 55.8.”
She explained that retirees “from away” love to come here and settle. And, many of them have fat wallets that have driven up prices on the homes that ordinary people used to be able to afford.
“This is one reason the number of students in our high school is down. Why?” she asked. She then answered her own question.
“Young families are not settling here because they can’t find jobs, and, home prices are too high. We need jobs, good jobs to attract them,” she said.
So, I asked Ms. Pigette, what else did the public say?
“Contractors say the buildings there need work, but there is a bit of a zoning problem,” she said. “Look, old news dog, Faunce explained that the east side is zoned to favor marine and waterfront-dependent businesses. But, most of the east side businesses are into hospitality, food and other non-conforming uses.
“If east side business owners want to upgrade or expand, or, God forbid, are damaged by a weather event or other tragedy, they might not be able to secure financing because banks are worried by their zoning status.”
“Well, Ms. Pig, why don’t the town officials just vote in a new zoning ordinance?” I asked.
“Not so easy, grasshopper. Rules are rules. First, they have formed an advisory committee to make a recommendation to the planning board. Then the planning board must craft an ordinance and recommend it to the Harbor’s select board. Then, the select board must approve an ordinance and present it to the town’s voters in a town meeting.”
“So what else?” I asked.
“If the harbor voters approve it, and that could be a big if, as voters, just like those in Wiscasset, could throw a wrench in the process, officials will have to get it OK’d by the state to make sure it is in line with the shoreland zoning regulations.”
“If the new east side zoning ordinance passes state muster, Coulombe must then get planning board approval. Then and only then, can his contractors start moving dirt. Complicated? You think?” she said as she dismissed me with a shrug.
“Now, scram. I want you to stop at the hospital thrift shop and pick me up a warm coat. I prefer mink.”
Happy New Year to all.