China News: Planning board directed to review Varneys’ request

by Mary Grow

The China Board of Appeals has unanimously directed the planning board to redo its review of Parris and Catherine Varney’s application for commercial use of their Neck Road barn.

After the planning board rejected the application on October 25, on the ground that the Varneys failed to prove they could meet one of the 15 criteria for a commercial project in China’s ordinance, the Varneys filed an administrative appeal.

The main ground for the planning board decision, as reported to the Varneys in Codes Officer Paul Mitnik’s letter formally denying the application, was that the Varneys failed to meet the fifth criterion on the list. It requires applicants to prove projects will not disturb neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment of their properties “as a result of noise, vibrations, fumes, odor, dust, glare or other cause.”

The Varneys want to rent the barn out for weddings and similar celebrations, with music that they said would be entirely in the building.

Neighbors have argued that noise, traffic, headlights, consumption of alcohol, loss of privacy and other aspects of the project would be disturbing.

The Board of Appeals, Chairman Spencer Aitel said as he opened the Dec. 15 hearing, was not rehearing the application, but reviewing the planning board’s action to determine whether its decision had been reached correctly under the town ordinance. Matt Evans, the Varneys’ attorney, argued that the planning board failed to follow proper procedure in four respects, making its decision invalid.

First, he said, the planning board did not present the written findings of fact or conclusions of law required to support its decisions on each of the 15 criteria.

Second, planning board member Jim Wilkens’ participation tainted the procedure, since Wilkens is a neighbor of the Varneys, and his wife and son testified against the application. (Wilkens participated in discussion, but not voting, in initial planning board reviews of the application and removed himself physically from the board on Oct. 25.)

Third, Evans said, the Varneys presented a sound study that showed noise from music in the barn, with the doors closed, would be barely louder than normal background noise at the boundaries of their property, and the planning board heard no evidence to rebut the study.

Fourth, Evans thinks China’s ordinance lacks objective standards for deciding whether requirements are met, and therefore “appears to be arbitrary and capricious” and of doubtful validity under state law.

Testimony and discussion at the board of appeals focused on Evans’ first point and specifically on the noise issue. Neck Road resident John Deasy claimed that after the noise study was presented at the Oct. 11 public hearing on the Varneys’ application, neighbors were not given a chance to question or rebut it. The planning board record provides limited information on the qualifications of the sound engineer who did the study.

Board of Appeals member Virginia Davis said the record the board of appeals received did not clearly indicate whether the planning board allowed written testimony to be submitted for a specified time after the public hearing, as is common procedure. She believes interested parties should have been allowed to comment on testimony received at the hearing.

Davis was more concerned about the lack of written findings of fact, especially but not exclusively in relation to the fifth criterion. Written findings are required by local ordinance and state law, she said.

Her motion that the application be sent back to the planning board to make the required findings related to noise and the rest of the fifth criterion was unanimously approved. Davis added a request that planning board members do the same for the other 14 criteria, so that the board of appeals will not have to meet again.

Christmas vacation activities released for China School’s Forest

All programs will begin at the China Primary School bus circle. Programs will be outside. Come dressed for the weather.

All activities are free, but donations for future programming will be accepted. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

FMI, contact Anita Smith at chinaschoolsforest@gmail.com or message us on the China School’s Forest – China, Maine facebook page. In the event of snow, announcements will be made on the school forest facebook page or you may call 986-2255.

Thursday, Dec 29: New Moon Hike and Star Gazing Family Activity 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Come for a fun evening of star gazing, making night animal sounds, and maybe even a round of flashlight tag in the forest.

Friday, Dec 30: Bird Feeders 1 – 3 p.m. They will create a variety of bird feeders, popcorn garlands and other fun treats for our feathered friends and then hang them outside in the forest as we take a walk in the woods. On the walk, they will do some animal tracking if there is snow.

Saturday, Dec 31: Family Scavenger Hunt 1 – 3 p.m. Join them on a family scavenger hunt for various objects in the school forest. They will provide a list of items and a map of the forest. Families will search for the items and then join together at the CPS Pavilion for sharing discoveries and prizes.

Girl Scouts bake pies for dinner

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The Arnold Trail Girl Scouts gathered on November 22 to  bake 188 pies for the Messalonskee High School Thanksgiving dinner.  The troop donated all the supplies to make the pies. Approximately 1,000 people attended the dinner. The following troops were represented: #1783 Belgrade, #2204 China, #9, #15 and #906 Oakland, #375, #376, #1523, #1776 and #1785 Sidney, #2044 Vassalboro, and #1254 and #1557 Waterville.

Contributed photo

China police log November 1 – 28 2016

November 1 – 28 2016

Friday November 4

1630      Business Check Lakeview Drive
1702       Traffic Stop Lakeview Drive
1722       Business Check Main Street China Village
1825       Traffic Stop Lakeview Drive
1850       Traffic Stop Neck Road
1922        Traffic Stop Neck Road
1936        Traffic Stop Lakeview Drive
2000       Business Check Rt. 3
2010       Business Check Rt. 3
2025       Business Check Rt. 3

Friday November 17

1330       Assist Code Enforcement Rt. 3
1430       Assist Search Warrant Weeks Mills Road
1512        Assist MDEA with Traffic Stop
1555       Criminal Mischief Complaint Thurston Park
1615        Business Check Lakeview Drive
1640       Traffic Stop Village Road, S. China
1700       Business Check Rt. 3
1715        Business Check Rt. 3
1735        Stolen Vehicle Complaint Dirigo Road
1745        Domestic Disturbance Dirigo Road
1810       Business Check Windsor Road
1857       Traffic Stop Rt. 3
1915       Assist KSO with Criminal Speed Lakeview Drive

Saturday November 26

1210        Business Check Lakeview Drive
1215         Business Check Causeway Road
1330       Animal Complaint Hanson Road
1355        Traffic Stop Pleasant View Ridge Road
1500       Traffic Stop Windsor Road
1545        Business Check Rt. 3
1622       Residence Check Requested Old Waterville Road
1700       Business Check Lakeview Drive

China News: Police report: traffic on Main St. too fast

by Mary Grow

China Village residents told selectmen last summer that traffic on Main Street and Causeway Road is too fast. Technology has backed them up.

Two of China’s five local police officers, all of whom are also Oakland policemen, reported to China selectmen on Dec. 12 about police activities since August. Traffic control is one of the major issues they deal with. In his written report, Sergeant Tracey Frost said they used grant money to buy a Blackcat radar system which they deployed inconspicuously on Main Street, Dirigo Road and Jones Road, three places where residents complained of speeders.

An attached report from Sergeant Jerry Haynes, who analyzed the radar reports, said that Jones Road and Dirigo Road have some fast traffic, but not enough to warrant a major enforcement effort. On Main Street, however, almost 21 percent of drivers exceeded the enforcement limit of 35 miles an hour, which is 10 miles above the posted speed limit.
Main Street, Frost wrote, “has the highest level of traffic violations we have ever recorded.”

He recommended that patrols continue and that in the spring selectmen consider other traffic-calming measures. “The concerns of local residents are certainly justified,” he added.

Besides the 25 mile an hour limit on Main Street and intersecting Causeway Road, additional signs warn drivers to watch out for a blind pedestrian, children playing and pets.

Frost’s report listed other activities in which the five officers have engaged this fall, and offered residents his personal email address to which to send law-enforcement concerns: chinamainepolice@gmail.com. In other business at the Dec. 12 meeting, selectmen accepted the resignation of Fred Montgomery as an alternate member of the planning board. Tom Michaud said Neck Road residents had asked him to apply for the seat; selectmen decided to follow their usual procedure of advertising the vacancy. They are also looking for more members for the ad hoc committee on China for a Lifetime, which will investigate ways to make the town more user-friendly, especially but not exclusively for senior citizens. The committee currently consists of Michaud, Selectmen Joann Austin and Irene Belanger, Sandra Kostron, Helen Roy and Toni Wall.

Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux reported that acquisition of the Wachusetts property on Lakeview Drive, given to the town and accepted by voters on Nov. 8, is complete. He is still working toward acquiring the two properties voters agreed to buy, one adjoining the town office and the other at the head of China Lake.

Selectmen considered proposing local measures to prepare for the state-wide legalization of recreational marijuana. They decided the March town meeting will be an appropriate time for any action they choose to recommend.

Other area town officials are exploring ordinances to ban recreational marijuana or to establish a moratorium to give them time to create appropriate local regulations.

Board Chairman Neil Farrington reported that he and Selectman Ron Breton met with Palermo selectmen to work out final details of Palermo residents’ use of China’s transfer station, scheduled to begin with the new year.

Farrington also issued a reminder that the new transfer station days are now in effect: the facility is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, and no longer open on Wednesday.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting has been rescheduled from Monday evening, Dec. 26, to 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 29, in the town office meeting room.

Bar Harbor Bank and Trust completes 28th annual community food drive

Bar Harbor Bank & Trust concluded its 28th annual “Food for Good” community food drive on November 18. More than 4,850 food items and over $3,370 were collected for and delivered to local food pantries prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. “On behalf of the Bank, I would like to thank everyone who gave a gift of healthy food to our neighbors in need by donating to the food drive,” said Margie Gray at Bar Harbor Bank & Trust.

These gifts helped fill Thanksgiving food baskets and stock the shelves of local food pantries for the winter months ahead. One of the five local grocery stores that participated was Tobey’s Grocery, in South China. For each “share” of one of the Bank’s “Food for Good” Facebook posts they donated one dollar to a local food pantry. “Thanks to all our Facebook fans, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust will be contributing an additional $370 to local food pantries,” said Gray. Each of Bar Harbor Bank & Trust’s 14 branches also collected donations for the Food Drive and delivered them to their local food pantry for distribution. Among the food pantries were Loaves and Fishes and the China Community Food Pantry.

“On behalf of all Bar Harbor Bank & Trust employees, our gratitude goes out to everyone who donated so generously to our “Food for Good” community food drive,” said Gray. “Thank you for helping neighbors in need by providing them with good, healthy food.”

China News: Selectmen approve all three requests from Thurston Park committee

by Mary Grow

China selectmen approved all three requests presented by the Thurston Park II Committee at the Nov. 28 selectmen’s meeting.

Committee spokesman Judy Stone presented a report on committee activities and asked selectmen to:

  • Choose Harold Burnett of Two Trees Forestry in Winthrop as consulting forester for the park.
  • Contract with Burnett for $400 to evaluate possible saleable timber in the park.
  • Set up a Thurston Park account into which donations, timber sales income (if any) and other funds can be deposited to be used for activities and improvements in the park.

Since there is currently no money for the park, selectmen approved taking the $400 from the $45,000 contingency fund voters granted them at the March 2016 town business meeting.

Stone said Burnett had visited Thurston Park and provided a report and map showing three small areas that might be worth harvesting. Much of the forest is young, she said; and Burnett’s report commented that the area had been heavily cut in the 1990s, leaving little potentially marketable wood.

Another pending project is improving access to the park. Stone said committee members plan to talk with Pete and Dawn Haskell, whose driveway at the south end often becomes a de facto parking area, before asking China’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee for recreational-enhancement funds to improve the access roads.

The grant funds that helped build recreational trails can be used only inside the park, not for access, she said.
Thurston Park covers about 400 mostly-wooded acres in northeastern China, bounded by Palermo and Albion. Selectman Irene Belanger commented that many people all over the state have visited or heard of the area.

The next meeting of the Thurston Park II Committee is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, in the town office, Belanger said. (ep)

In other business Nov. 28, China resident and state Department of Transportation (MDOT) employee Scott Rollins told selectmen about MDOT’s cooperative programs with municipalities. The state seeks local officials’ input on prioritizing work on state and state aid roads that run through their municipalities, he said.

Selectman Joann Austin asked about several problem areas and pending projects in China. Rollins said representatives of the department and the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments will be considering the Alder Park Road.

Austin and Belanger are concerned that the large culvert under Route 3 east of Rockwood Drive, installed in the 1960s and due to be replaced, tentatively in 2017, blocks what used to be a water connection between China Lake and Three Mile Pond. Rollins said this time, unlike in the 1960s, MDOT will consult with environmental agencies.

On another topic, Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said he talked with the three landowners involved in town acquisitions voters approved Nov. 8. He has asked the town attorney for advice on proper conveyance documents to give China legal title to the lot behind the town office, the lot at the head of China Lake where boaters park and the former subdivision on the east side of Lakeview Drive.

Resident Sandra Costron recommended China selectmen consider a reaction to the Nov. 8 statewide vote approving recreational marijuana, pointing out that a majority of China voters voted against the referendum question. The item was on the agenda for the selectmen’s Nov. 29 visioning session.

L’Heureux said signatures had been validated on Marie Michaud’s petition to reconstitute the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee. Belanger is calling former committee members to see who wants to serve again; Michaud provided a list of other interested people.

China’s comprehensive plan is valid into 2020, L’Heureux said. Michaud’s petition asked the reconstituted committee to consider one aspect of the plan, establishing land use districts.

The town will have a new committee on providing resources for senior citizens and residents with special needs – suggested project or committee names include Aging in Place, Thriving in Place and China for a Lifetime. Selectmen appointed the first five committee members: Austin, Belanger, Kostron, Helen Roy and Toni Wall.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting will be Monday evening, Dec. 12.

China Middle School first quarter honor roll

GRADE 8

Dean’s list: Trevor Brockway, Ian Oliphant and Courtney Paine. High honors: Nick Barber, Melana Huard, Madyx Kennedy, Haley Laird, Hailey Mayo, Trevor Norton, Annaliese Patterson and Acadia Senkbeil. Honors: Brooke Allen, Keith Knowles, Jonathan Martinez, Aiden Pettengill and Hunter St. Jarre.

GRADE 7

Dean’s list: Sarah Praul and Mackenzie Roderick. High honor: Cailee Elsasser and Emma Jefferson. Honors: Julia Barber, Emily Clark, Colby Cunningham, Josette Gilman, Larissa Haskell, Lili Lefebvre, Madison Lully, Wes McGlew and Jacob Seigars.

GRADE 6

Dean’s list: Breckon Davidson, Reiana Gonzalez, Elizabeth Hardy, Beck Jorgensen, Lily Matthews, Kayla Peaslee, Gabriel Pelletier, Alexis Rancourt, Noah Rushing and Sophie Steeves. High honors: Macelino Chavez, Alivia Gower, Alexia Leigh, Hannah Patterson, Samantha Reynolds and Lauren Tyler. Honor: Nicole DeMerchant, Danilo DosSantos, Kolby Maxim, Kaden Soto and Sammantha Stafford.

GRADE 5

Dean’s list: Isabella Boudreau. High honor: Braylin Bilodeau and Grayson Podey. Honors: Lacey Arp, Duncan Bailey, Simon Clark, Brielle Crommett, Gavin Cunningham, Kaylee Fyfe, Stephanie Kumnick, Andrew Perry, Remy Pettengill, Ryan Tyler and Ava Wedge.

China News: Board plans public hearing on medical marijuana facility

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members have scheduled a Tuesday, Dec. 13 public hearing on the first application for a medical marijuana facility in town.

Nathan White applied for the marijuana-growing facility in the building that formerly housed Thadius Barber’s dollar store on Route 3. White said he is a licensed caregiver, allowed to grow a state-specified number of plants for himself and up to five clients approved for medical use of the plant.

Planning Board members had many questions about state regulations and White’s plans. They decided to hold the hearing in case other local residents would like to have questions answered.

Security was one concern. White said he has security cameras and door sensors; landlord Barber said the door sensors can be set to call police or White. The separate house behind the commercial building is occupied and the householder will be attentive, White said.

New Planning Board Chairman James Wilkens emphasized that White’s application is for medical marijuana. The proposal has nothing to do with the recreational marijuana referendum apparently approved by Maine voters Nov. 8, pending a ballot recount.

The Dec. 13 planning board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the town office. Public hearings are usually the first business item. Wilkens was unanimously elected board chairman after Frank Soares said he did not have time to continue in the position. Soares was elected vice-chairman.

On another topic, Codes Enforcement Officer Paul Mitnik said as of Nov. 22, he had not been notified that Parris and Catherine Varney are appealing the planning board’s denial of their permit to use a barn on their Neck Road property commercially for weddings and similar functions. However, he said, a board of appeals meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Dec. 15.

Asked by a Neck Road resident whether interested members of the public would be allowed to speak during the board of appeals hearing, Mitnik referred the questioner to board chairman Spencer Aitel.

 

China middle school soccer teams

China girls soccer team

China girls soccer team included, front row, left to right, Elizabeth Hardy, Josette Gilman, Jasmine Crommett, Sarah Praul, Madison Lully, Mackenzie Roderick, Hannah Torrey and Sage Reed. Back, Julia Barber, Emma Jefferson, Emily Clark, Madyx Kennedy, Mikala McIntyre, Kayla Peaslee, Rebecca Morton, Brooke Allen and Coach Carl Peterson. Contributed photo

China boys soccer team

China boys soccer team, front row, left to right, Beck Jorgensen, Gabe Pelletier, Noah Rushing, Wyatt French, Wes McGlew, Brayden Wilson, Noah Ross and Mason Henderson. Back, Colby Cunningham, Hunter St. Jarre, Riley Mayo, Trevor Norton, Nick Barber, Chris Williams, Logan Tenney, Nathan Howell, Jacob Seigars and Coach Colby Foster. Contributed photo