Calais City Council Holds Public Meeting With Main Street Property And Business Owners

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By Gwen Clark

 

The Calais City Council, City Manager and Mayor held a public meeting at the City Building on Thursday evening, April 11th. Letters were sent earlier in the week to Main Street property owners, making them aware that the current Downtown Revitalization Ordinance would be discussed for repeal at this meeting.  All of the City Council members were in attendance.  The Consent Agenda was passed with no opposition. It consisted of previous minutes, Monthly Departmental reports, Case Fund for April, Treasurer’s warrants, City, School and Water through April 10, 2013, Liquor License Renewals for the Town House Restaurant and Schooners Bar & Grill, and the St. Croix #1 Committee Bingo License.

  The public hearing was divided into two parts. The first was discussion of the Downtown Revitalization Ordinance. Jim Porter relayed information about phone calls he had received, and letters that were sent with opinions about the ordinance. The Planning Board has been working on the amendment and revision of the ordinance, making it business friendly, with language more easily understood. Penalties will be updated and approved through the Planning Board for necessary improvements and expenses. They also have been working on re-zoning of the designated area. The Board is willing to put in extra meetings in order to expedite the process.  Phone comments were received from Sydney Unobskey, Mike Johnson, Marcia Carlow, and Dan Carlow. Letters were received from Tim Crowe, Greg Carter; Mainline Studios owner, and, John Churchill, President of the St. Croix Historical Society.  Most were in favor of repeal of the present ordinance but not without having something else in place first.   

  Public members in attendance at the meeting expressed a concern as to why the ordinance was being repealed without a revised or amended ordinance in place first. Kathleen Caso stated that the City Council should, “Let the Planning Board finish their job, present it to the City Council and hold a Public Meeting for repeal of the old ordinance.”  Joan Perry commented that, “The Planning Board is working diligently and they should be given a chance before you throw out the things that they are working on.”  Planning Board member Herm Gadway stated, “There hasn’t been really a good reason presented why we’re repealing this ordinance; you have the Planning Board to revise what we have and they have been working on it. I think it would be disrespectful to not let them finish their work before repealing it.”  “Tex” Gary Young stated, “There needs to be a current ordinance in place. He has been working hard to upgrade and bring his property into compliance but the expense necessary in parts, standards, and compliance to do the work make it very difficult for businesses and property owners to do so.”   The general public contribution at the hearing involved the maintenance and repair expense, with property and business owners wishing to preserve the historical and attractiveness value to the community. Councilor Dwelley stated, “He was looking at the revision of a new ordinance and the repeal as two different issues.”  Councilor Nixon cited a statement received by Roxanne Eflin of the Maine Downtown Network that said, “Rescinding the current ordinance without having a good enforceable solution is un-nerving and not an action I would recommend.” City Attorney Fletcher suggested that instead of repeal, a possible suspension of the current ordinance may be called for.  By the end of the Meeting he was able to draft a suspended form of the current ordinance. The Council decided to give Attorney Fletcher  time to write the provision up and hold  a special meeting to approve it, so that there will be an ordinance in place throughout.

  The second part of the Public Meeting was to discuss a request for a Special Amusement Permit for Karen’s Main St. Diner/Karen’s Korner Pub which was approved. City Manager Diane Barnes had no report. The Finance Committee, Property Committee, Public Safety Committee, Public Works Committee and the Economic/Community Development Committee had nothing to report.

  Kathleen Caso reported that the School Liaison Committee will be offering an interim contract to Ray Freve as a consultant for the school department.  Under public input on the agenda items, the CDRC letter co-authored by Herm Gadway, was presented to the Council. The letter addressed the positive impact that the Community Development Revitalization Committee has had on the community, the need for the investments, and the placement of resources downtown.  There was a suggestion that a pamphlet be designed showing downtown economic resources and projects, to create a draw for businesses.

  The idea for the use of volunteers to help in the basic upkeep and maintenance downtown was also brought up. A question about insurance was raised by the City Council. Chief Randall suggested using offenders that needed to complete their community service, saying their only restriction would be use of chain saws, weed trimmers, etc.  

  Other new business was the approval of the sewer commitment from Jan. 1, 2013 thru March 31, 2013 of $226,875.66. Part C covered write-offs, ambulance, and water in a need to write off bad debts and clear the books.  As of May 2010 a total of approximately $47,925.76 in bad debts were turned over for collection as write offs. The Dawson Fund Expenditure for the floating docks placement for the summer months was approved, as was an added expense for hiring divers to retrieve a lost mooring. The Council approved a Sewer Abatement request for a Main Street residence, and a Nurses Week Proclamation during the week of May 6 thru 12th. The Council approved the School Funding Joint Resolution, which is a request for grants or additional School funding from Augusta to be sent to Augusta for consideration. Finally, approval was given for The Summer Food Service Program, which provides meals throughout the summer months to children ages eighteen and under, living in the local communities.  This will be a service most likely through the Recreation Department Programs during the summer months.  The Cooperative Extension Program provides funding and other communities involved are Baileyville and Greenland Point Programs.