- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
BRUNSWICK — The Town Council delayed a vote to extend a moratorium on zoning homeless shelters a second time due to Councilor James Mason’s absence at Monday night’s meeting.
The panel also voted to set a public hearing for April 1 to discuss an ordinance authorizing the acquisition of property and the planning, design and construction of a new central fire station.
Councilors were expected to vote to extend the moratorium to July 1, but after a public hearing they decided to push the vote to the next meeting on March 18, when all councilors are expected to attend.
Councilors Dan Ankeles, Daniel Jenkins and Jane Millett wanted to vote on the moratorium extension March 4, but were outnumbered.
“I just think people took time out of their evening to come here because they thought we were going to take action on this tonight,” said Ankeles.
Town Manager John Eldridge reminded the council that a delay in voting on the second moratorium extension will not extend the second moratorium itself.
The first moratorium extension was approved in September; the moratorium in place expires March 24. If the council votes to extend the moratorium for a second time the moratorium will still expire on July 1, according to Eldridge. It also does not mean that work on the zoning ordinance will be impeded until July.
A list of performance standards, which would regulate how and when shelters can be run, is expected to go out to the councilors next week. If the zoning and performance standards are set at the next meeting, a public hearing could be held as soon as the first week of April. Then, once a decision is made, the moratorium can be lifted.
“Whether you had voted tonight on the extension of the moratorium or not, we are still going to come to you with the performance standards in the next meeting,” Eldridge said. “A nonvote tonight did not delay anything.”
Even though the council’s nonvote won’t delay the process of finalizing a zoning ordinance on homeless shelters, some members of the public were angry by the council’s inaction.
“I know there won’t technically be a delay in the process and a moratorium can be lifted and all that, but when the councilors delay their votes, it just shows to me that their behavior on this issue of homeless shelter zoning will continue while people freeze in the streets because the council can’t make up their minds,” said self-identified Brunswick transient Michael Greentree after Monday night’s public hearing.
The process, which Millett described as “arduous” started after the town put the brakes on a proposal by Tedford Housing to build a new shelter and resource center. Town officials said they realized that Brunswick didn’t have an ordinance regulating homeless shelters even though Tedford has operated in the community for decades.
Tedford’s existing facilities, a shelter for single adults on Cumberland Street and a family shelter on Federal Street, are grandfathered and would not be affected by a new ordinance.
The Council voted 7-1, with Christopher Watkinson in opposition, to set the public hearing about the fire station, which is projected not to cost more than $15 million.
Watkinson said he was opposed because he was more comfortable with the original $13.5 million cost estimate.
“Personally, I don’t think I could say with confidence to any one of my constituents that I was sure I spent money responsibly at the larger figure we are talking about spending,” Watkinson said.
Eldridge reminded the council that approving the higher estimate doesn’t mean that is the amount that the project will cost.
During the hearing on April 1, councilors may vote on creating a funding ordinance to finance the new fire station project or may send the issue to referendum.
Millett urged the council to think about approving the ordinance at the next meeting, as she has championed a new fire station “since she moved here 40 years ago.”
“Normally I would agree with sending it to a referendum, that would be my preference, but we have an obligation to provide public safety. We’ve talked about this for so long, people might vote just based on the money and we have an obligation to public safety and that’s what this building is,” she said.
Residents packed the Brunswick Town Hall on Monday to hear public comment about a zoning ordinance on homeless shelters. A moratorium on the issue was extended for a second time.
Loy Jones took the podium during a public hearing about extending a moratorium on homeless shelters in Brunswick, saying “anyone can relate to homelessness, not just homeless people.”