Brunswick adds board members, avoids planning pitfall

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council avoided a potential pitfall in the planning process Tuesday night after it filled two vacancies for the Village Review Board, which previously couldn’t meet because it lacked a quorum. 

Councilors appointed Karen Topp, a senior physics lecturer at Bowdoin College, and Connie Lundquist, a retired lawyer who serves on the College Neighbors Association, to the board.

The two members applied after hearing about the vacancies and the unintended consequences they could have on the town.

The new appointments come two weeks after planning officials grappled with how to address the board’s low membership, which had dipped below the required four-member quorum required to meet in public and review development applications for the downtown area.

The addition of Topp and Lundquist brings the board up to five members, one more than the required quorum.

If the vacancies had remained, the review board wouldn’t have been able to review applications for building construction, renovation or demolitions, which could have forced a developer to file an appeal with the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Planning and Development Director Anna Breinich had previously said that situation would be far from ideal because the appeals board is not equipped to handle design and historical preservation issues, as the review board is.

The lack of a quorum for the review board became a pressing issue two weeks ago because the town is preparing to review several development plans.

They include one from Wiscasset-based Coastal Enterprises Inc., which is tentatively planning to relocate its headquarters to the site of the Town Hall and former Recreation Center properties on Federal Street.

To avoid future instances where the review board could lose its ability to meet and consider development applications, the Town Council set a public hearing for Feb. 3 to amend the zoning ordinance based on recommendations expected to come next week from the Planning Board.

Based on the Planning Board’s discussion at a Jan. 7 meeting, a recommendation will likely seek to allow the Planning Board to take over the review board’s responsibilities if it can’t meet because of an insufficient quorum.

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, the council scheduled a workshop for Feb. 10 to kick-start its search for a new town manager and to discuss the proposed construction of a connector road at Cook’s Corner.

During the workshop, the council will discuss any desired changes to the town manager’s job description. The council will also review proposals expected to come from two consultants interested in helping with the town manager search.

Chairman Benet Pols said the two interested parties are former Town Manager Don Gerrish, who now works as a consultant for law firm Eaton Peabody and will begin serving as Wiscasset’s interim town manager next month, and Municipal Resources Inc., which assisted the town with its previous town manager search.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.