Alna selectmen decided Wednesday, Nov. 18 to take as much time as law allows before setting a town vote on Ralph Hilton’s petition to change the shoreland ordinance. The board plans to decide Dec. 16 how and when the town will vote. Selectmen have considered a referendum, due to the region’s spike in COVID-19 cases.
The proposal would add to a table of uses, “permanent structures for functionally water-dependent uses with a (National Resources Protection Act) permit where required.” Hilton has said the town has been using two scenarios when it considers shoreland projects, and the amendment’s goal is consistency.
A Nov. 13 letter from 61 residents asked selectmen to wait for town meeting next March. “It may be (the) ordinance needs updating and it would be better to take the time ... to review the ordinance and make any needed changes at the same time. Piecemeal changes will be confusing to the public and will lead to future conflict.”
On Zoom Nov. 18, some of those residents again urged the board to wait. And one, Mark DesMueles, said “we all know” the petition aims to help Jeff Spinney get a project passed. Hilton and Spinney said, not so.
“This is not my petition. I’m pretty tired of hearing that people think it is ...,” Spinney said. “It’s not mine, no matter how many times they mutter it ...”
Hilton told the meeting, “This is not Jeff Spinney’s issue. This is my issue, because we need consistency in our ordinances.” As for other residents’ request to wait, he countered, given the way the pandemic is going, there might not be an open town meeting in March. “We have no idea who might be looking to do some project” on the Sheepscot River or other water bodies, and that could pose legal costs for taxpayers, he said. “We need to come up with a plan of how we can run a ballot on this issue now.”
Second Selectman Doug Baston said by law, the board has 60 days to schedule it, and the clock started when the petition’s signatures were certified Oct. 23. He said if mediation resolves Spinney’s planned court appeal of the town’s rejection of his ramp proposal, waiting a month to set the ordinance vote could avoid residents’ basing their votes on their views of that project.
Third Selectman Greg Shute said the town will need to fully understand the ordinance and past permitted projects “so that we’re really working with facts and we’re all in agreement on those facts.”
Planning board chair Jim Amaral announced in a town email Nov. 20, a Nov. 23 public hearing on the ordinance change was off and would be reset when selectmen have scheduled the town vote.