“OK, let’s get measuring!”
With that start from Wiscasset Selectman Sarah Whitfield, ordinance review committee members and other masked walkers spent about a half hour in the whipping wind on both sides of Main Street Monday, pointing, measuring and talking to help plan use of the sidewalks Maine Department of Transportation built.
The committee is drafting a policy for selectmen to consider. Much of Monday’s talking centered on how merchants and other groups might share the sidewalks during Wiscasset Art Walk and other events. Motioning to longtime WAW organizer Lucia Droby, Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Mary Ellen Barnes called her one of the most adaptable people she knows.
Participants noted the movable benches, an unmovable traffic sign and other items to work with or around when permit-holders put out tables and chairs or displays and pedestrians and wheelchair users still need a mostly straight, possibly arcing path. Barnes said the measuring showed both sidewalks had enough space for the path and the activities being discussed.
What to do if a business puts out tables and chairs, and picnickers or other businesses’ patrons use them? The sidewalks are public, but what businesses put there under town permit is their property, participants said. Some suggested a business could have something on the tables saying they were courtesy of that business. They said that would encourage patrons’ use, but not bar others.
“So we need to work out a sort of arrangement or understanding with the businesses, that it’s their property, we’d prefer that they share the furniture, but on the other hand, I’m not sure that we want the code enforcement guy to be worried about enforcing ... chair sitting,” Barnes said.
The first year of permits and sidewalk sharing will help everyone sort out what works, participants said. “Experience will help a lot,” said Appearance of the Town Committee and Friends of Wiscasset Village member Terry Heller. As the session wound down, Heller told fellow attendees her ears were freezing like they were going to fall off.
Whitfield is selectmen’s liaison to the ORC. She said selectmen can adjust the policy if issues come up after the selectboard adopts it. The ORC will resume work on it at 5:30 p.m. April 12 on Zoom, Chair Karl Olson said.