China select board holds public hearing on warrant articles before small audience

by Mary Grow

The China select board’s May 8 public hearing on warrant articles for the June 13 town business meeting attracted a small audience – five residents – with an hour’s worth of questions and comments.

The focus was on two issues: the meeting format, and the revised Board of Appeals Ordinance that is the 32nd and final warrant article.

Sheri Wilkens raised the format question, asking why China hasn’t gone back to the pre-pandemic open town meeting, where voters could discuss issues and amend warrant articles. By select board decision, the June 13 meeting will be by written ballot only.

Wayne Chadwick, select board chairman, said he prefers the written-ballot format because more people vote. No one had exact figures, but in the past, it was often difficult to get a quorum, about 125 people (four percent of the registered voters at the beginning of the year), to start an open meeting; and attendance dwindled as the meeting went on.

In November 2022, by written ballot, China voters approved lowering the quorum to 100 voters. According to the Nov. 17, 2022, issue of The Town Line, the vote for the lower requirement was 1,015 in favor and 965 opposed.

Discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of meeting left select board members considering a November 2023 ballot question asking voters to choose.

Wilkens also asked about increases in the legal budget. Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said recent cases had generated larger expenses. She could not predict what might happen in future budget cycles, but thinks it prudent to have funds available if needed.

Per-hour legal fees have also gone up, Hapgood said. Wilkens suggested bidding out legal services; Hapgood said other towns are paying “significantly more” than China.

Wilkens began the discussion of the revised Board of Appeals ordinance (Chapter 9 of China’s Land Use Ordinance) by referring to its origins with the select board early in 2023. After a recapitulation of discussions among select board and planning board members and other residents, Thomas and Marie Michaud chimed in with questions about the content of the ordinance presented to voters.

The ordinance is on the town website,, under the Elections tab on the left side of the page, in two forms: the eight-page version that voters will accept or reject, titled “Proposed Chapter 9 Appeals Ordinance; and a 10-page, multi-colored draft titled “Chapter 9- V3 Combined Mark-ups,” showing changes between the current and proposed versions.

Absentee ballots available May 15

Absentee ballots for China’s municipal voting – the 32-article warrant that includes the 2023-24 municipal budget, authorizations for select board actions, two amended ordinances and other questions – will be available May 15 through the town office.

The 2023-24 Regional School Unit #18 will be approved by voters from the member towns (Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney) at a meeting on Thursday, May 18, at 6 p.m., at the Messalonskee High School Performing Arts Center, in Oakland.

Absentee ballots for the June 13 vote on affirming or rejecting the RSU #18 budget approved at the May 18 meeting will be available May 19 through the China town office.

China’s voting will be Tuesday, June 13, in the portable building behind the town office, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Those present at 6:55 a.m. will elect the meeting moderator.

On Tuesday, June 13, the China town office will be closed. The Lakeview Drive entrance to the town office complex will also be closed; voters should use the Alder Park Road entrance.


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