Harpswell town meeting warrant includes beach, dogs, Mitchell Field

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HARPSWELL — Town residents have a whopping 75 articles to vote on at this Saturday’s town meeting, several of which have attracted special attention from Harpswell officials and residents.

Selectmen decided to move up the vote on Cedar Beach, the last on the warrant, to 11 a.m. The article would allow the town to buy the public access to the beach for $950,000, the amount the Abrahamson family says their property value will decline by if they lose their right of way. Town Administrator Kristi Eiane advocated for the move because the article involved a significant amount of money and she worried many voters would leave before the end of the voting.

The article is not recommended by the Budget Advisory Committee. Burr Taylor, a committee member, said that he thought the amount was too much. The town estimated that the value of the Abrahamsons’ property would only decline by $220,000 if they lost the right of way, while the family’s estimate was much more. “There’s a lot that could be done with that money and we thought it’s more that it’s worth,” said Taylor.

The Board of Selectmen made no recommendation on the item. “We felt it was up to the town as a whole to make a commitment of one kind or another,” Chairman Jim Henderson said.  “We didn’t feel we could recommend the full amount of the asking price.”

Residents can vote to approve spending $950,000; to defeat the article entirely; or to authorize the town to spend a lesser amount, which the Abrahamsons may or may not accept.

Articles 12 through 15 involve ordinances related to Mitchell Field. The first two ask if the town would enact amendments to the town’s comprehensive plan that clarify development rules for Mitchell Field and establish a framework for how development proposals are made. Henderson said while the town hasn’t received any formal proposals, informal negotiations a few years ago with a tug boat company based out of Boothbay Harbor highlighted how confusing the development rules currently are for that property.

Article 14 would authorize the selectboard to enter into multi-year leases at Mitchell Field instead of putting all such decisions before a town meeting. Article 15 would add Mitchell Field to the short list of places where cellphone providers can propose to build facilities. These places are currently limited to the Harpswell TV station and the area behind the town’s recycling center and town office.

Article 17 would amend the town’s animal control ordinance. Currently, owners of dogs running around off leash and causing problems can be fined by the animal control officer. But the officer can’t do anything about dogs that are tied up or under leash control but still barking or howling. The amendment would allow the officer to fine owners of all nuisance dogs.

Article 60 would authorize the town to raise $10,000 in order to fund the lobbying expenses in the on-going boundary dispute with Brunswick. The two towns held their first meeting about the issue this week. $2,500 has already been raised and allocated since 2010.

Secret ballot voting begins at 8 a.m. Voting on warrant articles begins at 10 a.m. The town meeting is held at the Harpswell Islands School.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net