June 24, 2018
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Vote on zoning could benefit Castine library

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

CASTINE, Maine — Voters in November will be asked to approve amendments to the town’s zoning ordinance that could pave the way for a planned addition to the Witherle Memorial Library.

The voters will face two questions, each proposing a similar change to the ordinance related to parking and the library.

The library trustees have proposed building the addition and at the last town meeting in March, voters authorized the expenditure of $1 million from the Witherle endowment for the project. According to Town Manager Dale Abernethy, however, the town’s planning board did not approve a permit for the project because it did not meet the parking requirements in the zoning ordinance.

“Based on the size of the addition … they would have to provide eight, off-street parking spaces,” Abernethy said. “They couldn’t do that, they just don’t have the land.”

Library supporters, he said, circulated a petition to amend the ordinance, exempting the library from the parking requirement. Although the proposed change in the petition specifically names the Witherle Memorial Library, it also would amend a section of the ordinance to exempt all libraries from the requirements in question.

According to Abernethy, the planning board reviewed the proposed amendment, as required by town regulations, and objected to the exemption for all libraries. The board recommended the amendment not be approved and presented its own amendment that would exempt only the Witherle library.

“Either one will do what the library wants,” Abernethy said. “But because both the amendments were presented, both have to be on the ballot.”

The warrant for the election notes that if both amendments pass, the one receiving the most votes will be enacted. If one passes and the other does not, the ordinance will be amended accordingly. If neither question passes, the ordinance will remain unchanged.

Voters also will be asked to adopt the updated Castine Comprehensive Plan. The plan was last updated in 1996. The proposed plan is a complete update of the entire plan that already has been approved by the State Planning Office, Abernethy said.

The final referendum question asks voters to authorize the transfer of up to $4,500 from surplus to hire a code enforcement officer for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Abernethy noted that he had been serving as the town’s full-time code enforcement officer when he was hired as town manager. At that time, he said, the job was not too demanding and he continued to serve as CEO as a volunteer in addition to serving as town manager.

The job has become more time consuming due to changes in town ordinances, he said. In addition, Abernethy said, he has been ill and physically is no longer able to do the job.

The funds, if approved, would allow the town to hire a code enforcement officer through Jan. 31, when the fiscal year ends.

In municipal elections, there is only one contested race. Incumbent Selectman Peter Vogell faces a challenge from William Carter. No one filed papers for the open seat on the school committee. Dorothy Knapp is the sole candidate for a five-year term on the Witherle library board, and Wendy Knickerbocker has no challenger for a one-year term on the library board.

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