(from the February 2010 Maine Townsman)

From Around the State and City Hall

Biddeford: The city has issued a violation notice to a property owner whose second-story balcony collapsed in late December, injuring six people. The owner had not sought a permit before building the structure. An engineer has opined that the construction flaw that caused the destruction likely would not have been noticed by code officials.

Bridgton: Selectmen have changed their minds and will not hold a straw vote at town meeting this year regarding whether to impose user fees on nonprofits in lieu of property taxation. The board cited the strict state regulations regarding assessing fees on tax-exempt properties for reversing its earlier decision. The board has cut the proposed municipal budget by $423,000, but the total is still slightly higher than the town’s LD 1 limit. The town expects to lose $700,000 in revenue in the new fiscal year.

Columbia Falls: Special town meeting voters on January 13 rejected a request to spend up to $10,000 for a full audit of the town’s financial books. The vote, 53-3, was prompted by a citizen petition after some residents alleged they were unable to get copies of public documents. Selectmen agreed to allow residents to meet with the town auditor, along with the board, when the fiscal year 2009 audit begins.

Jackson: Residents voted 111-75 during a special town meeting February 6 to approve an ordinance placing tight restrictions on development of industrial wind farms. Among the rules under the new ordinance is a ban on erecting wind turbines that stand 400 feet or higher within a mile of a private residence. Some residents argued the ordinance was too restrictive and complained about the “Not in My Backyard” attitude of some property owners in this rural Waldo County town of about 550.

Jonesport: A Maine Revenue Services staffer reportedly called tax increment financing deals “corporate welfare” during a meeting with selectmen in mid-January. Selectmen in the Washington County town have approved a $10 million wind farm proposal. The developers of the project have not sought a TIF, thus far.

Lincoln: In a decision released in early February, a Superior Court justice ruled the town’s Board of Appeals was right in refusing to hear an appeal from the group, Friends of Lincoln Lakes, saying the group did not have standing to oppose the planning board’s approval in December of a $130 million wind farm project on Rollins Mountain. Justice William Anderson blamed the group itself for refusing to identify its legal organization to municipal officials and for making irrelevant arguments in trying to sideline the project.

Naples: Selectmen deadlocked in January over whether to join a seven-town effort to essentially develop one regional comprehensive plan for the Greater Naples region in western Maine. Naples would be asked to pay $3,500 toward the $200,000 project, which would be funded mostly by grants. Naples is the only town of the seven balking at the idea, with one selectmen predicting all seven towns would never agree to agree on anything. The other towns involved all have endorsed the idea by either voting to fund their portion of the effort or send it to town meeting for a vote. The six towns are: Bridgton, Casco, Denmark, Harrison, Raymond and Sebago.

Old Orchard Beach: The town has been recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Administration for its longtime flood mitigation efforts. OOB received the highest award given under FEMA’s Community Rating System program, of which the town has been a member since 1993.

Saco: The planning board wants a review of the significance of buildings that will abut or surround a proposed new CVS pharmacy. The board decided in late January that the company’s permit application was incomplete without the review.

Wells: Selectmen will form a committee, which will include residents, to study options for a new public works building. The proposed project is the town’s first capital improvement priority, town officials said in January. A new facility is projected to cost in the range of $3 million. The town has saved $300,000 toward the eventual cost of the new building.