Dover-Foxcroft municipal articles placed on Nov. 2 referendum ballot

DOVER-FOXCROFT — When Dover-Foxcroft residents head to the polls in November, they will be voting on articles concerning the creation of ATV routes and the permitting of certain retail marijuna facilities.

A municipal order calling for a special referendum and election was signed by the selectboard during an Aug. 23 meeting. Polls will be open for the referendum vote from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2, at Morton Avenue Municipal Building Gymnasium.

The ATV article asks “Do you favor having the Select Board create snowmobile and ATV access routes on certain public ways in order to facilitate access to snowmobile and ATV trails?” A favorable vote would allow the Select Board to designate the specific access routes at a later date.

Last month town officials, members of the Dover Rovers ATV Club and the public had a lengthy discussion about a proposed 1,400-foot extension of the current ATV access route on the Foxcroft Center Road. The extension would have lasted through the end of the season. The board did not approve the extension by virtue of a 3-3 tie vote.

A motion containing the Foxcroft Center Road extension, as well as directing the town to work with the Dover Rovers ATV Club to develop a question on ATV access on public ways to be placed on the November referendum, had a 3-3 vote and was not approved.

Currently there is a vacancy on the Select Board following Ernie Thomas’ resignation last month, and the open seat will be filled in November.

Another motion on just the Foxcroft Center Road extension also had a 3-3 vote. An ensuing motion on working with the ATV club to develop a referendum question was approved by a 6-0 vote.

The Nov. 2 ballot question is contingent on the understanding that the ATV club approves the proposed language and will not file a petition to place a similar question on the ballot.

“The next set of questions pertains to retail marijuana questions, adult use marijuana and not on the medical side of things,” Town Manager Jack Clukey said. He said the land use committee requested four articles be placed on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The questions “will let voters indicate if they favor allowing retail activities in certain land use districts,” Clukey said. “It’s just like the ATV article — it’s whether someone favors a certain policy or not.”

Should the article pass then the town will proceed to develop land use ordinance amendments for future consideration by voters, and if the article is defeated the town will not proceed.

Four types of establishments are presented separately for consideration: adult use retail marijuana stores, adult use marijuana cultivation facilities, adult use marijuana products manufacturing facilities and adult use marijuana testing facilities being permitted in certain land use districts.

In other business, the board approved a motion requiring everyone coming into the town office to wear a mask or face shield — with medical exemptions in place such as for respiratory issues — should the community transmission color code be orange or red. 

“I think it’s important we protect our staff when a lot of folks come in,” Selectperson Jane Conroy said. She said some businesses in the area have had to temporarily close after staff have gotten sick.

“The question I put before us, should we put in that we have a requirement coming into the town office or facilities?,” Conroy asked.

Selectperson Gail D’Agostino concurred, saying masks should be required under the orange or red designation (the two highest of four color possibilities). Piscataquis County is currently in the red, based on the proportional number of average daily cases among the population.

Town officials opted to continue with the development of a remote meeting policy, scheduling a public hearing on the topic for the Monday, Sept. 13, meeting. Any policy enacted could be utilized by other town groups, such as the planning board, should the entity opt in.

During the coronavirus pandemic the selectboard had been meeting remotely as well as under a hybrid method with members present in the Morton Avenue Municipal Building Community Room and others attending via Zoom at times over the last 17 months.

Special legislation passed in March 2020 allowed for remote municipal meetings, but this expired at the end of July with the conclusion of Gov. Janet Mills’ emergency declaration.

Maine communities can adopt their own remote policies to conduct meetings under certain circumstances, such as allowing board members to attend if they or a family member has a medical situation or are out of town for work.

“We are continuing to offer meetings via Zoom, but that is really discretionary at this point,” Clukey said, having drafted a remote meeting policy for review. He said the policy only pertains to selectboard members’ ability to meet remotely.

“This would give us the flexibility,” Selectperson Steve Grammont said, saying a remote meeting could allow for town business to be conducted in the event of an emergency such as a flood or extended power outage.

The board formally approved contributing $2,600 for a county broadband grant.

Last month town officials learned more about a county broadband planning grant project from Piscataquis County Economic Development Council Executive Director John Shea — the council is the grant applicant — and consultant, Casco Bay Advisors of Gardiner President Brian Lippold.

Shea explained the PCEDC has been awarded a $30,000 broadband planning grant from the ConnectMaine Authority for a study to identify specific broadband issues in the region. Having documentation in place would aid in applying for larger sources of funding to rectify identified issues.

He said the Piscataquis County Commissioners showed support for the initiative by agreeing to cover about two-thirds of required matching monies — $19,890 in America Rescue Plan monies awarded to the county — during a June meeting. The county commissioners asked that the PCEDC request that the 18 organized municipalities in Piscataquis County contribute the remaining $10,110, divided proportionally, which would be $2,600 for the Dover-Foxcroft share.

The grant will produce a study of the region and gap analysis that will be in place as grants and other monies are sought for broadband projects across Piscataquis County. The information will be used to produce GIS maps showing gap areas and other locations with service in place. The maps will help determine costs to extend broadband access.

The board approved a donation of about 800 yards of loam for Foxcroft Academy to allow the secondary school to ready its soccer field for the upcoming season. Foxcroft Academy’s other soccer field, which had been used for games, is now under construction as the future site of a fieldhouse.

“We have an excessive amount of loam,” Clukey said, estimating a 15,000 yard total and little of the substance is used by public works. When asked, he said the town would deliver the loam.

“This seems like a nice way to give back a bit,” Select Vice Chairperson Cindy Freeman Cyr said, as Foxcroft Academy has let the town use its facilities for youth sports.

During the public forum, D’Agostino asked about the status of a dangerous building at 72 Lincoln St. She said she has not seen recent activity since the barn was torn down and the remaining structure was boarded up.

Clukey said there are two benchmarks, the first was to take down the barn and the second is to complete renovations by Nov. 1. “That would be our point to revisit our declaration that is a dangerous building,” he said.

“It is my understanding that they got permits and then, for whatever reason, stopped work,” the town manager said.

In late April the board passed a formal motion stating that with a plan in place to tear down the barn and renovate the home portion of the structure closer to the road, the town would not take any action pertaining to a dangerous building order until Nov. 1, provided a plan submitted by a prospective property buyer to remedy the property is followed. 

The board approved a dangerous building order in March for the unoccupied house and attached barn to address long-standing problems with the property.

The Lincoln Street property is owned by Alberta Luchetti of Little Falls, New Jersey. Her grandson Nick Bartley had said she is in poor health and could not take care of the situation on her own. Bartley has power of attorney for Luchetti. Bartley said there is a prospective buyer in place through Mallett Real Estate with a plan to tear the barn down and fix up the house.

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