Brunswick Town Council: Taylor challenges incumbent Knight in District 6

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BRUNSWICK — Voters in District 6 have two Town Council candidates to choose from at the Nov. 2 election.

Incumbent Councilor Margo Knight is being challenged for her seat by Scott Taylor.

District 6 includes Maine Street from Fort Andross to Maine Street Station to the north end of McKeen Street, and also portions of Federal and Water Streets and parts of Bowdoin College.

Polls at Brunswick Junior High School will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. Absentee ballots are available at the town clerk’s office.

Margo Knight

Knight, 56, is seeking her second three-year term. She and her husband David live at 22 Page St. They have no children.

Knight is an educational fundraiser and works in the Office of College Advancement at Bates College in Lewiston. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Macalester College. In October 2007 Knight was appointed to the Town Council to fill a vacancy and was elected that November.

She served as chairwoman of the citizen-led Old High School Project Committee and the council later appointed her to the Old High School Implementation Committee.

As a councilor Knight has previously chaired the Maine Street Station Oversight Committee and is current chairwoman of the Downtown Master Plan Committee, tasked with developing a plan to strength neighborhoods, and improve pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow.

Knight said she has enjoyed her term in office and working collaboratively with the other councilors; the town’s economic and community development staff and the Brunswick Downtown Association.

She said there have been many positive things happening downtown over the last three years. The vacant Grand City building will soon be filled by Cool As A Moose, a clothing and gift store with a location in Freeport. Maine Street Station is also “gaining traction,” she added.

“Mid Coast Hospital will be occupying the new building and the Inn at Maine Street Station is under construction,” Knight said – the type of mixed uses the committee hoped to attract to Maine Street Station.

She added that the new visitor’s center operated by Brunswick’s Downtown Association has had 5,000 visitors since opening on Memorial Day. She expects more visitors once Amtrak Downeaster train service starts.

“The ripple effect from Maine Street Station will eventually help the entire downtown,” she said.

Knight said she supports building a new police station at the intersection of Pleasant and Stanwood Streets. “It takes properties off the tax rolls,” she said, “but it serves as an important signal to people coming into town that this community values public safety.”

She said having a police station there will help slow traffic coming into town. She also said it could have a positive economic effect both in that neighborhood and downtown.

Knight said she has enjoyed her work on the Downtown Master Plan and hopes people will be pleased with the report and recommendations. One objective of the plan, she explained, is getting visitors where they want to go. “We’ve recommended improved signage to make it easier for motorists to find businesses, park their cars and find neighborhood facilities,”  she said.

Knight said the plan also focuses on providing better neighborhood lighting, sidewalks and encourages residential living on second and third floors of buildings downtown.

Scott Taylor

Taylor, 40, said politically he is an independent. He and his wife Ginger, who was born in Brunswick, have two children, both of whom attend Brunswick schools.

Taylor, a former writer and producer, moved from Los Angeles to Brunswick four years ago. He owns Maine Bunk Beds at Fort Andross, a manufacturer of bunk beds and other children’s furniture. Taylor holds a bachelor’s degree in literature.

He is president of the NorthWest Brunswick Neighborhood Association, a member of the Heritage Committee and former member of the Brunswick Downtown Association.

Taylor said he knows how municipal government operates. While he lived in Los Angeles he was an elected member of his neighborhood association, the chairman and president of the Van Nuys/Lake Balboa Neighborhood Council.  “I had a constituency of 45,000 people,” he said. “The association served in an advisory capacity to the City Council.”

He said the association was an unpaid position, although it had an operating budget. “We were able to direct city funds to be spent for landscaping, paving those kinds of things,” he said.

Taylor said District 6 in his opinion is the most important one in town. Along with the historic neighborhoods, it includes Maine Street and the most of the downtown district.

“Our downtown pretty much defines who and what we are as a community,” he said. “Its key to attracting tourism and new residents.”

Taylor said he has some concerns with the direction downtown is heading.

“It seems to me like they’re chasing after certain opportunities without any clear, long-term vision,”  he said.

Citing the Walgreens Pharmacy, which failed after a public outcry, and Maine Street Station, Taylor said problems arose because town officials didn’t consider the bigger picture. He said zoning that permits a Walgreens or similar commercial venture on the corner of Pleasant and Stanwood makes an already known traffic bottleneck worse.

“They’ve known for years something has to be done at that intersection,” Taylor said, adding that he has mixed emotions about building a police station there. “You can’t seriously talk about putting a police station there unless  something is done about improving the traffic flow through the intersection,” he said. “This has to be addressed at the earliest stages of planning.”

Maine Street Station, he said, is “iconic” of the problem: “So far its been predominately for re-located businesses.”  Taylor said he understands the concept of tax increment financing as a means of stimulating business growth, but wonders what the area will look like in the future.

“The Maine Street Station property  isn’t worth as much now as it was because of the sudden downturn in the economy,” he noted.

Taylor said the town’s purchase of the former Times Record building is another example of town leaders not looking at the whole picture.

“They bought it with one thing in mind – a new police station – and that hasn’t happened; then they looked at it for a town office and that didn’t happen either,” Taylor said. “They’ve really created a terrible situation, a serious liability. Now they’re trying to sell it, but who’s going to buy it when they can get 10 others like it after (BNAS) closes?”

Another concern of Taylor’s is the council’s decision to reduce the number of voting precincts from seven to one. “It was an all-or-nothing mentality,” he said, “with no consideration given to traffic issues, long lines at the polls, or whether people will want to drive across town to do this.”

He said a better idea might have been to reduce the polling precincts gradually and start by going from seven to three precincts.

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