WILMINGTON- Selectboard members voted to move forward with a solar power contract, discussed policing, and sent three proposed zoning changes back to the planning commission for revision.
At their last meeting, selectboard members held a hearing on proposed zoning changes. This week, the board announced that three of the proposed changes would be altered or eliminated. Section 530, as proposed by the planning commission, would have required DRB approval for the removal of a tree, shrub or “other natural features” in the village and historic districts. Board members sought to soften the impact by requiring residents of those districts to “consult” with the zoning administrator before removing a tree or shrub.
“Section 530 is too intrusive,” said selectboard chair Tom Fitzgerald. “Asking people to go through the DRB to cut down a tree. No, we’re not going to do that. But we would like it at least run by the zoning administrator, with no fees involved.”
Planning commission chair Cheryl LaFlamme protested that section 530 would protect current beautification efforts, as well as new streetscape projects that the town hopes to implement in the future, including sidewalks and landscaping along Beaver and Church streets. “If the ordinance could say that we encourage or suggest you talk to the zoning administrator,” said LaFlamme.
Board member Sarah Fisher asked what would happen if the zoning administrator told someone they can’t remove a tree, shrub or other natural feature.
“If the zoning administrator says no, I guess someone could appeal it,” said former DRB chair Nicki Steel. “But if there’s no criteria in the document, it goes back to ‘encourage,’ and that’s just not appropriate language for a law.”
“I think property owners should be able to cut down whatever they want to cut down,” said Fisher.
Meg Streeter, who noted she had been on the DRB “for a couple of confusing years when the ordinance kept growing,” suggested regulating landscaping could have an undesirable effect. “I don’t think you want to have to ask someone, I think you want to make it simpler for people to beautify their properties. I don’t think having a hearing…”
Streeter was cut off by Fitzgerald, who reminded her that the current proposal was to have residents get an “opinion” from the zoning administrator.
“That’s still regulation,” Streeter said. Fitzgerald asked LaFlamme and the planning commission to propose new language for encouraging property owners in the districts to consult with the zoning administrator before removing a tree or shrub.
The board also removed language that would require DRB review of minor changes in use, even when they fall within the same category of activity. The proposed zoning also would have required village and historic review district property owners to paint their buildings with colors that are “architecturally accurate.” Board members indicated little support for it, but board member John Gannon asked zoning administrator Craig Ohlson if the language was changed to “historically appropriate,” would he be able to render a decision. “It’s very vague,” Ohlson said. “Asking someone to paint with a historically appropriate color may be difficult to do.”
The board will hold another public hearing after the changes are made.
The board also heard from Wilmington Police Chief Joe Szarejko regarding part-time police staffing.
Earlier in the year, board members had placed a moratorium on new hiring, anticipating they would end the fiscal year with a deficit of $300,000 or more. Recently, town officials learned the town ended the year with no deficit.
Szarejko urged board members to allow him to fill a vacant position for a part-time officer, which he said would reduce overtime expenditures and expand opportunities for enforcement grants. Szarejko said hiring part-time officers also provided an opportunity to evaluate their potential to serve as full-time officers. “It gives us a chance to get a good look at the person, see what kind of work ethic they have. A lot of our part-time officers have become full-time officers, including Matt Murano, Tyson Kinney, Shawn Hammond, and Patrick Brewer. Three of our current full-time officers started as part-time.”
“The last time, you had the very bad luck of coming on the same night we learned we thought we would have a $300,000 deficit going into the next year,” observed Manwaring.
“And now you’ve heard we’re in good condition,” said Szarejko. Board members said they will discuss Szarejko's proposal at an upcoming meeting.
Ralph Meima, of the Green Lantern Group, a solar power developer, proposed an agreement to lease town-owned land at the transfer station site off Higley Hill Road. Meima said the lease option agreement would allow Green Lantern Group to conduct a feasibility study for a 150 kw solar array.
The option to lease would last up to a year, but Meima said if the feasibility study is successful, the solar developer would begin negotiations for a long-term lease.
According to the terms of the proposed agreement the town would receive a base rate of $3,750 per year for the first 10 years of a long-term lease, and $4,500 for the next 10 years if a solar array is eventually built on the site.