$4.5 million Route 1 sewer proposal, harbor, food sovereignty ordinances head to Rockport voters
A proposed $4.5 million sewer extension is one of several warrant articles that will be placed before Rockport voters at June Town Meeting, June 12. The Rockport Select Board held a public hearing April 29 and invited residents the opportunity to speak in favor of or in opposition to eight of the warrant articles, which also include a food sovereignty act and amendments to regulations in Rockport Harbor.
The warrant will also include a marijuana cultivation ordinance (See separate story: Proposed Rockport ordinance limiting marijuana cultivation for personal use draws criticism)
Sewer bond proposal
Appearing as Article 10 on the warrant, voters will be asked to authorize a bond to facilitate the construction of a 1.5-mile sewer extension running from Sea Light Lane to the PenBay Medical Center. In February, the Select Board heard a presentation by Nate McLaughlin, of Portland-based construction Woodard & Curran, who supplied the town with a cost estimate of installing the extension which runs along Commercial Street (Route 1).
The project, which began in 2014, was included in the town’s Comprehensive Plan with the hope of extending wastewater service to parts of Rockport where development zoning is targeted. The cost of the proposed extension is approximately $4.25 million (total $5.5 million with interest payments at an anticipated 2 percent borrowing rate), and Rockport Select Board Chairman Ken McKinley said that tax increment financing (TIF funds) would be used to pay for it, as well as initial engineering costs and bond payments.
At the time McLaughlin said it was likely that if the town moved forward with the project, Maine Water Company would extend public water service in that area at its own expense.
“At a special Town Meeting in 2018, voters approved a change in the TIF plan and approved the expenditure of existing TIF funds for the purpose of final design of the system that would go out to bid once voters approve a bond to build the system,” wrote Town Manager Rick Bates, in his notes to the Select Board for its April 29, 2019 meeting. “That final design is in process now and will be completed soon. The payments of principal and interest for this bond is covered entirely with TIF proceeds and from sewer user fees and this has no impact to the taxpayers.”
Currently, Rockport carries $2.1 million in outstanding bonds that need to get repaid. There is also a $1.5 million library bond voters approved in November. If the sewer bond passes, total municipal debt will be $8 million, plus interest.
Rockport taxpayers also face initial payments for the $32 million bond load that they share with Camden for the new Camden-Rockport Middle School, in Camden. Total debt load for School Administrative District 28 (Camden-Rockport) due for repayment in 2019-2020 is $4.1 million, of which Rockport is responsible for 47.54 percent.
The total SAD 28 budget for 2019-2020 is $17 million. The total Five Town CSD (Camden Hills Regional High School) budget is $13 million, of which Rockport is responsible for 2.1 percent.
Rockport also pays county taxes, and the 2019 .budget for Knox County is $9 million, of which Rockport taxpayers contribute approximately $1 million.
Food Sovereignty Ordinance
Article 3 on the warrant is a food sovereignty ordinance proposed by Rockport resident Marci Casas earlier this year.
“The premise of the ordinance is that you could sell soup to your neighbor without having to license your kitchen, or in the case of our family farm, it’s about being able to sell more than just the produce – so if I wanted to sell dill pickles to my neighbors, I wouldn’t have to license my kitchen,” said Casas, in January.
The board sent the ordinance to get reviewed by the town’s legal counsel, Phil Saucier, and acting Town Planner Bill Najpauer, who both offered comments on the documents. At a March 11 Select Board meeting a revised initiative was discussed by town officials.
“The ordinance adopts policies underlying the Maine Food Sovereignty Act... and allows direct ‘producer-to-consumer transaction’ [or] a face-to-face transaction involving food or food products....[Saucier] does not recommend going beyond what is allowed by law and has recommended language which does meet terms of the statute,” wrote Bates in his Manager’s Comments.
“The State Legislature limited the statute to the ‘site of production,’ and while that doesn’t help those who want to be able to sell their pickles at farmer’s markets... the remedy might be in the Legislature – we might see this again some day if the legislature amends it,” said Select Board member Debra Hall.
Harbor ordinance amendments
Articles 5, 6, 7 and 8 involve amendments to Rockport’s Coastal Waters and Harbor Ordinance.
Proposed by Harbormaster Abbie Leonard, these articles seek to expand the definition of residency to allow people who both live in Rockport or live in town seasonally but are Rockport taxpayers to be considered residents with regard to boats moored in Rockport Harbor.
Article 6 involves amendments to mooring specifications.
Article six reads:
“All moorings shall meet the following minimum standards which are designed for normal weather conditions. It is the mooring owner’s responsibility to ensure that additional precautions are taken in theevent of gale winds and/or extreme tides. The safe and serviceable condition and adequate size of all mooring equipment is the responsibility of the mooring permit holder. The prudent seaman rule shall apply.
“The Harbor master or its designee reserve the right to require a vessel owner to increase the minimum mooring standard for any vessel should they determine the minimum standard would be inadequate because of the unusual design of the vessel such as but not limited to excessive weight, windage or draft.”
The article then lists the mooring specifications, with chain and pennant sizes. (See attached PDF for full ordinance language.)
Article 7 requires that all boats left on moorings from the period of Dec. 1 to March 1 require harbor master approval.
“No moorings shall be occupied in Rockport Harbor during the winter period from Dec 1st to March 1st, without advance approval by the Harbormaster,” Article 7 reads. “The Harbor master shall grant approval for use of moorings during the winter period only if the Harbor master determines that the boat owner has adequately demonstrated that: (i) the vessel to be moored is seaworthy; (ii) the mooring or anchoring gear is adequate to withstand ice and other adverse weather conditions; and (iii) the vessel owner has adequate access to the vessel in winter conditions. Harbormaster approval does not imply an assurance of security and the ultimate risk lies with the vessel owner.”
Article 8 states that all new or replaced floats in Rockport Harbor use encapsulated flotation devices, and aims to eliminate all unencapsulated polystyrene flotations from the harbor.
Fred Ribeck, of the town’s Conservation Committee, spoke in favor of the article on April 29, but asked that a specific definition be provided of what constitutes “encapsulation.”
Marci Casas also spoke in favor of the article but asked that an end date was provided for existing floats in the harbor which are made from unencapsulated foam, which sloughs off debris into the water.
Make way for West Rockport fire station overhaul
Article 9 involves the sale of town owned property to acquire land abutting the West Rockport Fire Station from Nelson Tolman in order to expand the station in the future.
An initial plan presented to the board last year by Fire Chief Jason Peasley included expanding the existing building to include additional bays for fire engines, but at Feb. 11 Select Board meeting a site plan was provided which would demolish the facility and rebuild on the site. Peasley said that another impetus for relocating the building followed a survey by engineering firm Gartley & Dorsky.
“As discussed at a previous meeting of the Select Board, passage of this article will exchange a piece of the land, purchased in 2016 for the future expansion of the West Rockport Fire Station with the Nelson M. Tolman, the abutter, for One Dollar and land exchanged. This will allow for better siting of a future Fire Station with proper setbacks and allowances around the building for expansion. The land being conveyed to Mr. Tolman is of no value to the Town and we will maintain the most valuable land for Town use. By adding this land to the current Tolman lot, it could become more valuable, for future economic development and more tax dollars if a bigger building we able to be located on the lot,” said Bates in his Manager’s Comments.
The remainder of the warrant, not discussed at the public hearing, appropriates and raises funds for the budgets of the municipality’s departments. Voting on articles which appear on the warrant for the June Town Meeting will take place Wednesday, June 12, at 7 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House.
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