Vacant Yarmouth Town Council seat attracts 2 newcomers

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YARMOUTH — Two candidates are running for one open seat on the Town Council.

Joan Dollarhite and Rob Waeldner are seeking the seat vacated by Steve Woods. Woods, who served as chairman for three years, resigned the day after losing the June 10 Democratic primary in state Senate District 25.

Neither Dollarhite or Waeldner have held elected office, although they have each served on various boards and committees.

Joan Dollarhite

Dollarhite grew up in Cumberland and has lived in Yarmouth for four years with her husband and 9-year-old son. She is a legal assistant at the Portland law firm of Norman, Hanson and DeTroy.

Dollarhite is a board member of the Yarmouth PTO for kindergarten through eighth grade, and volunteers as a Cub Scout leader.

“I didn’t want to fade into the background,” Dollarhite said. “I want to serve the town.”

While she said she doesn’t “have anything particular in mind that needs improvement,” there are some issues she knows the council needs to address. One is whether the U.S. Route 1 bridge should be renovated or torn down.

“I think taking down the Route 1 bridge is the best option for Main Street,” Dollarhite said.

Dollarhite said businesses on Main Street keep leaving and that if elected she wants to see what she can do to stem the attrition. She said many of these businesses are moving to Route 1, but that some residents think Route 1 doesn’t always feel cohesive with the rest of Yarmouth.

“We need to tame Route 1 so it can become part of our village,” Dollarhite said.

While more businesses may be developed along the Route 1 corridor, Dollarhite said the town’s new Character-Based Development Code can help keep businesses from looking out of place and help maintain Yarmouth’s character.

“I think the character is the look of the business,” Dollarhite said. “It’s not difficult to require businesses to stay within a defined character.”

Dollarhite said she also understands safety concerns, especially if new businesses bring more traffic through town. She said the way the town plans the streets should force traffic to slow down.

“If we want it to be a safe place for pedestrians and bicyclists, we’ll make it a safe place,” she said.

Dollarhite said public transportation could help with this problem, and she supports the council’s decision to join METRO’s three-year pilot program for bus service to Portland.

She also said she understands how hard councilors work on the budget and that she likes it as it is.

“I know a lot of work goes into looking at every line item on the budget,” Dollarhite said. “I don’t think there’s any excess.”

Dollarhite said Yarmouth doesn’t always communicate with residents enough about issues happening in town and she said she’d like to change this. She said “the concerns of citizens can’t be pushed to the bottom of the pile.”

“I think as a town councilor I’d be there for the town to communicate with them and be responsive,” she said.

Rob Waeldner

Waeldner is an attorney in private practice and has lived in Yarmouth for 16 years. He and his wife have three children, in grades 10, 9, and 5 in the Yarmouth school system.

Waeldner has been on the Little League board of directors for seven years and has been a mentor in Yarmouth schools for six years. He is also the chairman of the IT Technology Review Board at the Maine Technology Institute. Previously, he was on the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce board of directors and a Rotary Club member.

Waeldner ran for Town Council in the June 10 election but lost. He said he’s running again because he wants to serve.

“I don’t have a specific agenda, but I love this community and I want to do my part to ensure it remains a great place and can get better,” he said.

As for whether the Route 1 bridge should stay up, Waeldner said he doesn’t have a view either way on the topic. He said that while he’s not sure what should be done, he wants to “create a well-thought out approach.”

“I want to be part of that process and make sure it’s done properly,” Waeldner said.

Waeldner said he sees how businesses are faring on Main Street and that he wants to stop them from “turning over so quickly.” He said if Yarmouth can get more businesses on Main Street, it’ll be good for the town’s economy. Waeldner said he’d also like to see more businesses on Route 1, but only if it’s done the right way.

“If we increase the number of businesses, it has to be done in a proper way with trees, parking spots, and more of a village feel opposed to the current Route 1,” he said.

Waeldner said bringing more businesses to town will “bring more traffic, but not crazy amounts.” He said he doesn’t think it would cause safety issues.

Waeldner said he’s also interested in bringing more affordable housing options to Yarmouth. He said he knows some residents have issues with how cluster homes might look in town, but that under the right zoning, this wouldn’t be a problem.

“I think a thoughtful approach to zoning can help maintain our character as well as enhance it,” he said.

Waeldner said joining METRO for the pilot program was a good decision and he hopes enough Yarmouth residents support and use it.

“It’s worth a try at least,” he said. “I think it’d be great if it worked.”

Waeldner said if he were elected to the Town Council, he would have a central goal.

“Strong communities are based on strong households, excellent schools, and successful businesses. I want to support all three of those,” he said.

Waeldner said his background and experience as a lawyer would be useful.

“It’s helpful to have a knowledge with laws and regulations so I think that’ll help,” he said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.