Saying the Master Plan is a legal document with no legal authority, Town Manager Kevin Smith told the Town Council on Monday night that the Master Plan is a guide the town can use as it makes planning decisions.
“I enquired of Attorney (Michael) Ramsdell just to give us an idea of what kind of authority the Master Plan carries,” he said. “To sum it up, the bottom line is that while the Master Plan is a legal document, it doesn’t have any authority to force the town to make any kind of changes it (the town) didn’t want to. It is there to be used as a guide when the town is considering doing zoning changes.”
Councilor John Farrell said the state Supreme Court had clarified that towns do not have to follow a Master Plan.
“Correct,” Smith responded.
He noted the future of the Town Common area has generated discussion with the Master Plan Implementation Committee, which usually meets the last Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. The public is welcome at all of those (meetings), Smith said.
Smith added that the committee members as well as planning staff are well aware of the strong feelings in the community regarding the Town Common.
“Any change that would occur there, even adding trails, is something that is going to have to be very well thought out with a lot of public input, with nothing drastic taking place overnight,” Smith said.
Chairman Tom Dolan asked the Council to consider what Smith had said and send in their recommendations as to whether the issue should be an agenda item.
“Should we have a workshop with the committee, should we have a discussion with the Planning Board?” Dolan asked. “I don’t think we should make any snap judgments. This is quite an emotional issue.”
Smith said he thinks it would be beneficial for the planning staff and the implementation committee to have direction from the Council and the Planning Board.
“The Master Plan is not a Town Council document, it is solely a Planning Board document, and the Town Council has no authority over the Planning Board other than appointments. We do not vote on the Master Plan,” Farrell said.
Asked by resident Reed Clark if the Council has to go along with a Planning Board plan to rezone property on Pillsbury Road, Dolan responded that the Council approves any zoning changes.
In other Council business:
• Smith noted that the ongoing spending freeze would continue until the end of May.
Councilor Jim Butler said he thought it should continue for a couple of extra months until the fiscal year ended, noting fiscal issues with the fire department and a plan set to go into effect on July 1.
• Executive Council candidate Jim Adams introduced himself to the board.