Town Council Meeting Report

At the February 12, 2024 Town Council meeting, the council voted on the agenda items listed below.    Councilor Jeremy Gabrielson was absent.

1.  Approval of Draft Minutes for January 8, 2024; 6-0 vote.
Councilor Penny Jordan made the motion to approve the draft minutes with one correction.  The edit to the minutes will now list the correct date for the next SBAC Public Forum on April 4, 2024.

2.  Consent Calendar on Items #40-2024 - #43-2024, and  Item #45-2024; 6-0 vote.
Councilor Jordan requested to pull item #44-2024 from the Consent Calendar.  Councilor Timothy Thompson informed the council that he is a member of the Purpoodock Club, regarding Item # 40-2024.

Item #40-2024 Renewal of Liquor Licenses and Special Amusement Permit for Purpoodock Club
Item #41-2024 Requests for the Use of Fort Williams Park 2024
Item # 42-2024 Consider Referring the Alternative Pesticide Ordinance to the Ordinance Committee
Item #43-2024 Consider Referring the Floodplain Management Ordinance to the Ordinance Committee
Item #44-2024 Consideration to Authorize an Application for the Housing Opportunity Program Municipal Grant
Item #45-2024 Consider Accepting a grant from the Portland Water District for a Water Bottle Filling Station

Item #44-2024 Consideration to Authorize an Application for the Housing Opportunity Program Municipal Grant; 6-0 vote.
Councilor Jordan pulled this item from the consent calendar, "I am really not opposed to accessing grant dollars for work that we have to do here in town, but I do have a question as to what is the project," and which items should be prioritized, "relative to the recommendations around the Housing Diversity Study Committee's work," Jordan asked.  

Councilor Stephanie Anderson, in response to Jordan's question, said that she was unsure of what the project in its entirety is, but that she was interested in the grant proposal's mention of standup ADU kits. Additionally, the grant applications are due in early March, "If we wait until next month, then we are going to miss the opportunity to get some technical support and financial assistance for something [standup ADU kits] that seems to be non controversial," Anderson said.

Town Manager Matthew Sturgis explained that the opportunity for this grant became known only after the last council meeting in January, which shortened the amount of time for council consideration prior to the March deadline.  Because the date for submission is four days prior to the next council meeting, "I wanted to find an opportunity to grab that three-week period to perhaps craft something that may work," Sturgis said.  Sturgis then asked for direction from the council on, "What do we want to put our arms around from a project perspective?"

The council authorized Sturgis to apply for the State of Maine Department of Economic and Community Development for Housing Opportunity Municipal Grants which provides support with municipal ordinance development, technical assistance and community housing planning services to increase housing opportunities.

3. Public Hearing on Item #46-2024 Proposed Conservation Ordinance Events Amendment
A Michelle Boyer, a member of the Conservation Committee, offered to answer questions from the council if necessary. No questions were asked.

4.  Item #46-2024 Proposed Conservation Ordinance Events Amendment; 6-0 vote.

5.  Public Hearing on Item #47-2024 New Liquor License for 527 Ocean LLC DBA Good Table
No comments from the public were received.

6.  Item #47-2024 New Liquor License for 527 Ocean LLC DBA Good Table; 6-0 vote.

7.  Nomination of Spirit of America Award Recipient - Cape Elizabeth Fire-Rescue Water Extraction Team (WETeam); 6-0.
The council approved Town Manager Matthew Sturgis' nomination of the Cape Elizabeth Fire-Rescue Water Extraction Team to receive the 2024 Spirit of America Award.  Early in the morning on January 13, 2024, the WETeam responded to a call for a 50-foot fishing vessel, Tara Lynn II, which ran aground during a strong storm hitting the Maine coast.  Four people aboard the vessel were not injured and were rescued by skiff by the WETeam, bringing them to safety two at a time.

8.  Item #49-2024 Consideration of a Request from Rally For The Courts to Fundraise for New Pickleball Courts at Fort Williams; 6-0 vote.
Rally For the Courts is a volunteer group in Cape Elizabeth requesting permission to raise funds to enhance the new Fort Williams Pickleball Courts with a goal of $15,000 to $25,000.  The funds would be used for amenities such as benches, court separation nets, and a water station.  Funding will be completed in May of 2024 and 100% of funds will be gifted to the town to support the purchase of these specific items.

9. Item #50-2024 Request for Consideration of Gull Crest Housing Bond; 4-2 vote.
Councilor Stephanie Anderson sponsored the agenda item as requested by resident Cynthia Dill. In a February 6 Memo, Dill requested that the council "Advance the housing goals of the Comprehensive Plan by authorizing the Town Manager to 1) take the next steps set forth on page 18 of the July 2023 Gull Crest Affordable Housing Feasibility Report, and 2) obtain the cost of building and bonding the road necessary to develop multiplex housing within the 22-acre site area that is not a dead-end roadway."

Anderson explained that she agreed to sponsor this item given ongoing public interest in developing affordable housing at Gull Crest.  However, Anderson clarified, "We are not building a road at all at this point,  We are suggesting taking the next steps as outlined in the [feasibiliy] report and that involves a methane gas study," and determining how much it would cost to build a road.  "If there is an environmental impediment to housing in Gull Crest then let's find out and the issue dies now.  If there is no impediment then we take this issue further," she added.

Jordan said that the title of the sponsored item has caused confusion, "What is the motion and what does it include? And is it an evaluation of the site that we want to have budgeted in our upcoming budget?"  Anderson agreed and offered that the motion reads, "'Authorizing the Town Manager to take next steps set forth on page 18 of the July 2023 Gull Crest Affordable Housing Feasibility Report'," which means that the next steps would be, "to hire a qualified firm to investigate the potential impacts associated with landfill gas, migration and other issues related the nearby landfill."  Anderson then asked the Town Manager Matt Sturgis about funding this study.

Sturgis said that the estimated cost for a methane study is approximately $40,000 and the estimated cost to conduct a planning and engineering study for the roads would be around $65,000.  Before including approximately $105 thousand in the FY 2025 budget, Sturgis commented, "I would say that the smart money would be to spend on the gas study first to find out."  Chair Timothy Reiniger asked Sturgis if the motion as read provided him with appropriate clarity and direction to move forward.

Councilor Caitlin Jordan Harriman said she was surprised that the item was not being moved to workshop first where the Town Manager would, "Present us with all of this information and then we have a more open and less formal conversation about what direction we want to go in and where to apply monies. We are hearing numbers for the first time, putting things into a budget."  Councilor Timothy Thompson said he would like to prioritize the gas study as it could have negative impacts presently, "If there is a problem there that exists, we should find that out.  Why would we wait until the next budget season to take the next step to see whether or not this is a safe piece of property on either side of Gull Crest for any further consideration?"

The amended motion read by Anderson and seconded by Councilor Susan authorizes, "The Town Manager to hire a qualified firm for the landfill gas migration study related to the nearby landfill that may affect housing up to $40,000 from the unassigned fund balance."  Councilor Reiniger, Thompson, Gillis, and Anderson voted in favor of the motion.  Councilors Jordan and Harriman Jordan voted against the motion.

10.  Item #51-2024 Consider Referring Outdoor Storage Amendments to the Planning Board; 6-0 vote.

11.  Item #52-2024 Consider Authorizing the Initiation of the Disposal of Real Estate - Vacant Land Map U29 Lot 40 (Stephenson Street); 6-0 vote.
Town Manager Sturgis explained that the town purchased this parcel many years ago when it went into foreclosure for non-payment of taxes.  The property is considered a non-buildable lot due to wet soil conditions.

The town has recently been approached by the adjacent property owner who is interested in purchasing the parcel from the town. Sturgis informed the inquiring resident that the town has a Real Estate Acquisition/Disposition Policy which requires that process must begin with the Town Council referring the request to the Conservation Committee and Town Manager for review.  With the assistance of town staff, Sturgis would determine whether or not to recommend the parcel be disposed of.  Should the recommendation be to dispose the property, abutters would be notified and a sealed bidding process would begin.  From there, "The council finally would have the opportunity to either accept the highest bid, the lowest bid, or whichever bid that you so choose, or not accept any of them.  That would be the end of the process," Sturgis said.

12.  Item #53-2024 Request to Transfer Funds to Cover the Cost for the Replacement of a Public Works Department Pickup Truck; 6-0 vote.
In a January 22, 2024 Memo from Public Works Director Jay Reynolds, he explains that bids to replace a department pickup truck came in over budget by $6,880. Reynolds is requesting the transfer of unused CIP funds to cover the deficit.

13.  Item #54-2024 Request to Transfer Unspent CIP Balance to Other Accounts; 6-0 vote.
In a January 23, 2024 Memo for Reynolds, he explains that the 2023 Town Center Sidewalk Project was completed under budget, leaving a surplus of $221,292.52. Reynolds is requesting to transfer these unspent CIP funds to three accounts:
  • Casino Beach Geotechnical Survey for $22,000
  • Shore Road Engineering Design for $46,000
  • Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for Consideration of Town Center Intersection Project in the amount of $153,292.52

14.  Item #55-2024 Approval of the Town Council Goals; 6-0 vote.
The 2024 Town Council Goals were discussed at workshops held on December 13, 2023 and January 17, 2024.

15.  Item #56-2024 Enter into Executive Session for Consultation with the Town Manager regarding Code Enforcement Officer Enforcement Matters at 150 Two Lights Road; 5-0 vote (Councilor Thompson was absent for this vote).

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