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Kingfield sets contract zoning vote for March 5

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KINGFIELD – Tuesday evening the Board of Selectmen set a date for a vote on contract zoning for the proposed Workforce Housing Coalition Western Maine Mountain affordable housing project.

Board members Wade Browne, Hunter Lander and Morgan Dunham voted in favor scheduling the vote for March 5 in conjunction with the Presidential primary elections. Selectperson Kim Jordan was not present.

At the planning board meeting Tuesday, Jan 9, board member Richard Hawkes confirmed that the board’s recommended additions and restrictions had been implemented in the application.

A representative of WHCWMM told the planning board at that time that there would be at least two well-publicized public informational meetings prior to the vote, although those meetings had not yet been scheduled.

WHCWMM member Tom Hildreth told selectmen a mailing would be sent to town residents with information about those meetings.

Contract zoning was approved at the June 2023 town meeting. It allows the town to consider changes to the zoning ordinances for specific projects. The changes necessary for the housing project include setbacks, height, density, square footage of lots, and the number and size of parking spaces.

If approved by voters, the housing project will be located at 479 Main St, near Dollar General.

In other news, a proposal for a new electronic sign was tabled. Clay Bublak from Neokraft Signs sent in the proposal but was not present due to weather.

During the previous board meeting, Village Enhancement Committee member Claudia Diller proposed installing a bulletin board inside Mainely Provisions. At the time, concerns included maintenance, clutter and designating individuals to post town information on the board. The board felt that a bulletin board was important but opted to look into an electronic sign that could be updated remotely but town employees as needed.

Sue Davis said Tuesday the VEC would not propose such a sign. She noted the Planning Board was looking into an ordinance that would disallow electronic signs. The proposed sign ordinance is expected to go before voters during the June Town Meeting, she added.

Town Manager Leeanna Targett noted the municipality is exempt from the sign ordinance.

“I like the idea the VEC had. This is just for information; we haven’t determined anything,” Browne said.

Implementing changes to municipal elections garnered much discussion. Diller had previously approached the board about changing to ranked choice voting.

“We got some information from them,” Targett said, referring to Maine Municipal Association. “Basically, I had to pitch back questions to them, because of our form of government. I am waiting to hear back.”

Diller said if there were two or more seats up for election, the candidates with the most votes would fill in the empty seats. Currently, the town elects officials based on empty or expiring terms, meaning candidates have to declare which seat they are seeking to fill.

“Rather than having to pick a seat and run against a person, you are running for a seat on the selectboard. The people that win the top number of votes in ascending order, which are the most popular voted people, get those seats,” Diller explained.

As an example, the Town of Farmington votes for selectmen by pooling all candidates onto a single ballot, resident Annie Twitchell explained. If there are two vacancies, voters are allowed to choose two candidates. The candidates with the highest number of votes win the open seats.

“It’s not ranked choice voting. You have two open seats, you are voting for two candidates for those seats. It sounds like that is what is being talked about here,” she said.

Carrabassett Valley holds elections in the same way, Davis said.

Targett said changes to municipal elections would have to be in the form of an ordinance or a charter and added that Farmington and Carrabassett Valley have charters in place. Changes would not be implemented until 180 days following a passing vote by the town, meaning it would not be in effect for June elections.

“That is what I am waiting for clarification on,” she said. “I want to fully understand that.”

As a final note, Targett said damages to town infrastructure during the December rain storm totalled $387,000.

The next selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. at Webster Hall.

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