Bath charter changes could go to Nov. 4 referendum

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BATH — A handful of amendments to the City Charter could go to a citywide referendum Nov. 4.

A public hearing on the proposed changes will be held at City Hall at 6 p.m. on Sept. 15.

Among the possible amendments are changing the time of the council’s annual organizational meeting, held in December, from 7:30 p.m. to the usual 6 p.m. start time of other meetings. One would allow notification of special meetings to be sent to councilors via email, with verification of receipt, while another would allow the city manager to live outside of Bath.

The City Council on Wednesday also tabled to next month whether to sell a 480-square-foot piece of city-owned land on Winter Street Court. The city purchased the property in 1996 to create a turnaround at the end of the street for snowplows.

But the parcel was never used for that purpose, and the Public Works director has said the city has no reason to hang onto it, according to City Solicitor Roger Therriault.

The land is desired by two abutters – Toader Serban, who owns 12 and 14 Winter Street Court, and Andrea DiBenedetto of 16 Winter Street Court. DiBenedetto erected a fence on the property, where she parks, with the city’s permission, in the mid-1990s, according to Community Development Director Scott LaFlamme.

Meanwhile, a deck Serban built is too close to the property line and does not meet setback requirements. It is therefore in violation of the city code, Therriault wrote in an Aug. 28 memo.

Serban – who attended Wednesday’s meeting, while DiBenedetto was unable to do so – said he wants the parcel because owning it would bring his deck into compliance; otherwise he may have to dismantle the structure.

Attempts by the two abutters to reconcile the matter have been unsuccessful, leaving the city several options. These include putting the parcel out to bid for Serban and DiBenedetto alone, doing nothing at all, or conveying the land to Serban with an easement for DiBenedetto, which would allow her to leave her fence as is.

“If there is a way to make both of the abutters happy in the end, I’ll certainly be favoring (that),” Councilor David Sinclair said.

Sinclair, who also wanted to hear more from DiBenedetto, motioned to table the matter for a month. The council approved, 6-1, with Councilor Andrew Winglass opposed. Winglass asked that city staff establish a price for the parcel.

In other business Wednesday, the council unanimously granted second and final approval to a three-year contract with the city fire captains. The pact calls for a 2 percent raise this year, and then a 1.5 percent increase for both 2015 and 2016.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.