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- The Forecaster
NORTH YARMOUTH — The day after the Nov. 3 referendum vote on developing Village Center, the Board of Selectmen began discussing how to move forward.
In an election that included dueling referendum questions and drew nearly half of registered voters, the majority supported Question 2, the result of a successful citizen petition.
Question 1, backed by selectmen and the Economic Development and Sustainability Committee, proposed redeveloping North Yarmouth Memorial School, closed in June 2014, as a municipal and community campus, with a municipal sewer system created on the property to facilitate new development. Town Hall would have been sold for housing or commercial development.
Question 2 opposed that plan, and called for the town to cease all spending and work concerning the project or development of a sewer system.
It also urged that Wescustogo Hall – the community gathering place destroyed by fire in August 2013 – be rebuilt as stipulated in a 1997 agreement with the town; that the current Town Hall be maintained and renovated; that proposals be sought for the school building; that citizen feedback be garnered on all proposals, and for any plans for the school to be sent to a town vote.
Town officials will refer Question 2 to the town attorney to solicit advice on any issues that may come up, such as the best way to move forward with a request for proposals. That opinion should be ready by the board’s Nov. 19 workshop, according to board Chairman Alex Carr.
Carr said he also sought input on what the next steps should be from his fellow board members, and from the citizen group that created Question 2.
“I’d like to take a look at (that input) and try to make an outline for what our work will be for the next four or five months,” Carr said. “I would like to get something done by (next spring’s) Town Meeting.”
Selectman Mark Girard noted the need to fund planning, but added that money is not available.
“I’m curious as to how we think we’re going to be able to get to some specific results without having the funding to do, or the authorization to do some of these things,” he said.
Grant funding could be available, and contingency funds could be used if necessary, Town Manager Rosemary Roy said.
Carr noted the importance of facilitated work groups to help residents sort through the issues on the table and reach decisions.
“I would like to think that this community can work that out,” Selectman Steve Palmer said.
“There’s no reason why this community cannot rally around this, and make this happen,” without bringing in outside sources, he added.
Moulton agreed, saying he wants residents to be involved, and that he is reluctant “to start spending money.”
Chadbourne suggested that a group of four to six people, representing both election questions, but different voices than heard before, could work together and come back with a plan.
“I think this issue has been talked just about to death, and probably written just about to death, and it would be nice to have some other voices, other faces, putting this thing together,” Chadbourne said. “And they don’t have to recreate it. The information is there.”
In related business, the board briefly heard comments about a town-funded flier sent in support of Question 1.
After receiving a flier the week before from the Economic Development and Sustainability Committee in support of Question 1, Paul Hodgetts of Sligo Road asked how it was funded, and whether the Board of Selectmen was “behind this all the way, or if it was just a certain few people involved.”
He also pointed out an error in the flier, which stated that polling hours were 7-8 a.m., when they were actually 7 a.m.- 8 p.m.
Carr said the town paid for the flier through Town Meeting-approved development money, “and through the Economic Development Committee and final approval from the town manager.”
The cost to print the flier was $713; with $239 in postage it cost $952 to produce, according to Roy.
Carr said the process of approving the flier was carried out by the Economic Development and Sustainability Committee.
“We’re going to probably learn some lessons from this and move forward, and tighten up our guidelines and our procedures, and they need to be tightened up,” Carr said. “We’ll review that particular incident internally.”
“I personally wasn’t happy with it,” he added, but noted that the town attorney said the mailing was legal.
Hodgetts said he heard many people were upset because the flier did not include information about Question 2.
After Question 2, which opposed Village Center development, succeeded at the polls Nov. 3, North Yarmouth must now decide what to do next.