YORK — A proposal to lift dock length restrictions will be on the ballot with a split preference vote by selectmen. Another proposal to eliminate the senior center advisory board ordinance was pulled. And selectmen unanimously decided they would prefer people vote “no” on the school town meeting question on the ballot.
All of this took place at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting Monday, as selectmen went through final preparations to firm up the May ballot. The ballot is expected to be sent to the printers in the next several weeks, after the March 19 deadline for people to return papers to run for elective office.
Selectmen were split 3-2 on their preference vote regarding a measure to remove language from the harbor ordinance that places strictures on York River dock lengths. The proposal, a petition warrant article spearheaded by Mill Dam Road resident Paul Radochia, has engendered spirited proponents and opponents.
The current ordinance allows docks west of Sewall’s bridge only in areas where the low water channel is 50 feet or less from the high water mark. For those properties east of Sewall’s bridge, where Radochia lives, that number is 84 feet. That figure doesn’t include the ramp and float typically added to the end of the dock.
Radochia has long claimed the dock length limitations are not fair, saying riverfront property owners like him have to walk through fragile marsh and eel grass to get to the river, which is not an environmentally responsible action. Further, he said, the Army Corps of Engineers and Maine Department of Environmental Protection both have to sign off on any dock, and both have their own set of restrictions and reviews by other agencies.
Monday night, Lisa Vickers of Atlantic Environmental laid out those permitting processes, saying the federal and state regulations “are very thorough, and it takes state and federal experts looking at each site individually.”
The other side of the coin came from Harbormaster Drew Donovan and Harbor Board Chairman David Webber, who told selectmen Radochia may well be right about the town dock regulations, but said a thorough study should be conducted first.
In their preference vote, Robert Palmer and Dawn Sevigny Watson both opposed the measure. Palmer said he doesn’t like citizen's initiatives at either the local or state level, saying a study should be done first. Watson said the language of the proposal was “too broad and open-ended.”
But Liz Blanchard, Mike Estes and Chairman Todd Frederick disagreed. Estes said the Harbor Board has had a long time to conduct a study and hasn’t. Furthermore, the issue comes down to property rights for him and as long as state and federal regulations are met, property owners should have the right to build a dock.
After a parade of seniors stepped to the microphone, selectmen ultimately decided to remove from the ballot a measure that would eliminate the 1984 Senior Citizen Advisory Board ordinance and replace it with a charter creating a Senior Center Advisory Committee appointed by the town.
This has been a contentious issue among Senior Citizen Advisory Board members since it was first proposed last month. They said they were not consulted by the town during the creation of the charter. Further, they say, since Parks and Recreation assumed oversight and operation of the senior center in 2010, they feel sidelined and unheard.
In addition, a wholly separate 501c3 corporation, York Senior Center, Inc., has to be considered as the future of the senior center is discussed, they said. The nonprofit formed in 1980 applies for grant funding to offset the cost of meals, trips and other activities at the senior center. Many of the same people are on both the current advisory board and the board of York Senior Center, Inc.
Emily Cambray of the Senior Citizen Advisory Board as well as treasurer of York Senior Center, Inc. said the advisory board was not consulted in 2010 when Parks and Recreation took over the senior center nor recently, when the advisory committee charter was proposed.
“We feel they (parks and recreation) don’t fully understand the responsibility of each of our boards," she said. "We worked well until we were put under Parks and Rec. (by then-town manager Rob Yandow)."
Debbie Meyers, who also serves on both boards, said the nonprofit board, despite requests, has never been provided with financial information from the town, which she said she finds disrespectful.
In the end, selectmen said there were too many unanswered questions and too many concerns had been raised to allow the repeal of the ordinance to go forward on the May ballot. Estes said it’s clear that when the town took over in 2010, Yandow “didn’t do it properly at all. In listening to the members of the senior center, let’s take a time out. It just doesn’t sound like all the pieces are in place.” The board voted to form a committee, with selectmen, Parks and Recreation staff, and members of the advisory board and York Senior Center, Inc. board.
Finally, with virtually no fanfare or discussion, the board decided in a unanimous preference vote against Article 45 on the ballot, which would return the school budget from Budget Committee overview to a school town meeting format. They will be the only board expressing an opinion on this measure as both the School Committee and Budget Committee decided against a preference vote.