Brunswick council to ratify budget, hear comments on CDBG proposal
BRUNSWICK — Adoption of the fiscal 2010 budget and a grant proposal for a utility upgrade on property formerly proposed for a business park are expected at the June 1 Town Council meeting.
Next year's spending plan is proposed at $53.8 million and contains no property tax increase, which satisfies the council's mandate to the town manager and School Department.
However, it remains to be seen how residents will react to the School Department's decision to divert federal stimulus aid from a proposed preschool program to meet the council's mandate. The redistribution of funds has already provoked disapproval from several School Board members, as well as school Superintendent Paul Perzanoski. They argued that using stimulus money to slash another $250,000 from department's proposed budget would jeopardize the program's start-up next fall.
The School Department originally proposed a budget of $33.7 million, representing an increase of 0.16 percent over this year's spending.
Even if the council ratifies the budget on Monday, residents still have another crack at altering the school budget when they vote on the plan on June 9.
Meanwhile, the council is expected to hear plenty of public comment before considering the authorization of a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant that would upgrade electric service to property on Old Portland Road. The grant proposal has been requested by Cliff Wilson, owner of Maine Tool & Machine, who hopes to move his business from Industry Road to the 114-acre property being developed by Bill Moore.
The parcel was once considered for a town-owned business park, but last year the council killed the proposal after deciding it would be too costly. Moore has since been working to privately convert the property into a commercial and residential development. Moore's site plan was scheduled for Planning Board approval on Wednesday, but was postponed.
While Moore's plan would meet existing zoning standards, nearby residents have voiced concerns about the development. Those concerns are being weighed by several councilors, including at-large Councilor Debbie Atwood.
In a May 26 e-mail to the Town Council and town staff, Atwood said that most of her constituents are worried that the long-term consequences of upgrading power capacity would yield further commercial development along Route 1 and diminish the area's rural character.
"Two fundamental issues are at odds," Atwood wrote, "(Moore's) rights as a property owner to develop his property according to existing permitted (zoning) and the interest in other Brunswick residents in avoiding sprawl in that area."
Moore, who was copied on the e-mail, responded that the proposal is in keeping with the council's recently adopted economic development goals.
Council Chairwoman Hallie Daughtry has also inquired about zoning changes to the property, which was once designated a forest and farm area but changed to a mixed-use category that allows for some commercial development.
Some neighbors have called for the reinstatement of the forest and farm zoning.
Planning and Development Director Anna Breinich said Tuesday that she believes the property was zoned forest and farm until 1984, when it was changed to mixed use. Breinich said it was probably changed again in 1997, two years before Moore purchased the property.
Breinich said she was fairly certain about those dates, but she couldn't confirm them on Tuesday. She also couldn't give a definitive explanation about why they were altered.
Moore, meanwhile, acknowledged that the grant would benefit his development. However, in an e-mail to the Town Council, he explained that the upgrade "wouldn't make or break" his project. He added that he would pursue other funding sources for the upgrade if the Town Council spurns Maine Tool & Machine's proposal.
"We do not need town permits or town permission to run three-phase power to the property if we fund it ourselves or find alternate funding," Moore wrote. "We are trying to use a federal tool (CDBG) to help a local business stay in Brunswick so he can retain the same employees who currently work at his facility. ... He would also invest about a million dollars into his facility and equipment that would add tax revenue to the town."
The Town Council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the meeting facility at 6 Industry Road.