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City Council Meeting Summary – November 23, 2021

Photo of Sanford-Seacoast Regional Airport solar farm by Gale Associates.

The Sanford City Council met November 23, 2021 via Zoom. Councilor John Tuttle was absent with notice. Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy led the Pledge of Allegiance and asked for a moment of silence.

The minutes of the previous meetings were approved.

Mayor’s Report

Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio gave a brief summary of discussions at the previous week’s Subcommittee meetings. See this story. She added that Councilor Tuttle is recuperating at home from his recent hospital visit, but is bored and would appreciate hearing from people.

Councilor Ayn Hanselmann gave a quick update on the Friends of the Downtown group. The Friends is a diverse group of business owners, residents and people that are passionate about Sanford. Their mission is to foster economic revitalization and community spirit which will generate a sense of pride, and create a community where people desire to live, work and play. They have already raised $6,000 and are preparing to apply for grants that will assist in furthering the group’s mission.

City Manager’s Report

CGA Cleanup: City Manager Steve Buck gave an update on the CGA site on New Dam Rd., and showed “before and after” photos of the cleanup that has been done in preparing for development of the site into a solar farm. The land was once littered with trash and contaminated with toxic waste left behind by a circuit board recycling facility. The City acquired 17 acres of the property 11-12 years ago and has worked with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Maine Turnpike Authority (which owns the other 110 acres) to turn it around, primarily through the use of federal grant funds. The small portion of contaminated soil that remains will be remediated by the end of the year and revegetated in the spring, after which Walden Renewables will install the solar farm. The energy generated on the city-owned section will be slated for use by developers in the downtown mill district, providing an additional incentive for development there. Mr. Buck said the project is under budget, which will allow some of the unexpended grant funds to be applied to other projects, including the International Woolen Mill property downtown.

Westside Village: Mr. Buck reported that the paving for this year has been completed, including the base layer of Kimball St., half of Shaw St. and half of Prescott St. New drainage systems are in place, water and sewer connections have been repaired and driveway connections completed. The remaining slipform curbing and sidewalks will be completed by the first week of December. The rest of the work, which will include part of Twombley St., the other halves of Shaw and Prescott, as well as the concrete sidewalks one block back from Main St., will be done in the spring, and the final finish layer of pavement will be applied over the entire project. The project had to be spread over two years due to the contractor’s staffing shortages.

Other Construction Projects: The Planning Partnership Initiative, which involves redesign and reconstruction of streets in the core of downtown Sanford, may be able to start in 2024, a year ahead of schedule, due to the passage of the federal infrastructure bill. Mr. Buck will be meeting with Maine Department of Transportation officials on November 30 to discuss the timing. The long-awaited Cottage St. reconstruction was supposed to be done next year, but has been pushed off until 2023 due to loss of design staff at MDOT. The Fire Department may also be able to get infrastructure funds to put toward construction of new facilities. Work is ongoing to examine the issue.

Covid-19 Update: Mr. Buck said the City has had difficulty getting enough BinaxNow test kits for City employees. He presented information from York County Emergency Management on the pandemic, which is showing record high numbers of cases of the virus across the state. He said pharmacies are overwhelmed with testing and vaccinations, on top of their regular work, and residents should be aware that it is taking 3-5 days to get a prescription filled at many pharmacies. Hospitalization numbers are also high, with unvaccinated patients more than twice as likely to require ICU care, as those who have been vaccinated. He said the highest hospitalization rate in Maine at this time is among people in their 30s.

Communications and Presentations

Police Department Promotions: Chief Craig Andersen joined the meeting from the Police Department for the official ceremony promoting Officers Thomas Sayre and Eddie Murphy to the rank of Sergeant. Chief Andersen said “Growing good leaders and providing them with the nutrients necessary to thrive is an absolute necessity for the Police Department and the City. For us, the rank of Sergeant is the first official step in leadership, and it is not an easy step…Our leaders must never stop growing and learning…and always striving to improve themselves, our team, and our community.” As he affixed the Sergeant’s pin to their lapels, he told them, “The City of Sanford and the Sanford Police Department have given special trust and confidence in your integrity, valor, leadership and professional excellence. In view of these qualities and your dedicated service, you are therefore promoted to the rank of Sergeant.”

Airport Photos: Allison Navia, manager of the Sanford-Seacoast Regional Airport, presented the final photos of the massive solar project there. She gave a brief history of the project, which began with updating the Airport’s master plan to allow the surplus property that would never have been used for aeronautical purposes to be designated for other uses. When she started working for the City in 2013, the Airport was supported in part by taxation, but the revenue from the solar project has made it financially self-sufficient. The Airport has since become “an economic engine that facilitates air traffic,” she said. The Solar project was profiled in the latest issue of Airport Improvements magazine, shining a spotlight on the City’s success. The article is online here. Mr. Buck said the Airport solar project is one of the keystone projects for the City, and described how Sanford was a trailblazer with this type of development.

Communications Coordinator: Mr. Buck introduced Jordan Wilson, Sanford’s new Communications Coordinator. Ms. Wilson is a graduate of Sanford High School and Endicott College. She is already hard at work redesigning the City’s website and social media pages, and wants to make them more user-friendly so residents can find the information they need quickly.

Public Participation: There was no public participation.

Airport Expansion: There were three public hearings related to the expansion of Presidential Lane at the Airport. The first two were on credit enhancement agreements with two of the Airport’s tenants, Label Tech and Sumner Properties. They will pay a fee to hook into the Airport’s utilities, and will be reimbursed through tax credits over time. Ms. Navia said this process provides an incentive for development that benefits the City, as the new companies bring added business and revenue to the Airport. The third public hearing was on financing the first phase of the expansion, which includes a $250,000 loan from the City that was approved as part of the 2021-2022 municipal budget. Ms. Navia said this will pay the contractor for the work that has already been done on the infrastructure and utilities. No members of the public spoke in favor or against. In separate agenda items, the City Council approved all three unanimously.

Consent Agenda: The Council approved licenses for games of chance (cribbage and Texas Hold ’em) at the Wolves Club.

Old Business

Electrical Standards: The second reading of an ordinance amendment to bring Sanford’s electrical standards in line with the state code was held. The Council approved it unanimously.

Townhouse Rezoning: The second reading of proposed Zoning Text and Zoning Map amendments associated with Townhouse Solar proposal on Hanson Ridge Road was held. Deputy Mayor Herlihy, owner of the property, recused herself. Planning Director Beth Della Valle gave a brief overview of the proposed changes and why they were recommended by the Planning Board. See previous stories. Councilor Luke Lanigan, who has missed some recent meetings, asked why, with the current housing shortage, land that is zoned for medium-density residential development should be rezoned for non-residential purposes. Ms. Della Valle explained that the topography of the site makes it “very, very unlikely” that a developer would ever build housing on it. “So, we’re taking a minimal tax property and turning it into something we can tax at a higher rate for our residents?” he asked. “Absolutely,” she replied. The vote in favor of the rezoning was unanimous.

New Business

FAA Grant: The Council voted to accept a grant of $59,000 from the Federal Aviation Administration for the Airport. Ms. Navia explained that the money is coming from Covid relief funding that is specific to the transportation sector. It was allotted by the federal government without her having to apply for it. The funds will be applied toward the debt service on the Airport’s snow removal equipment.

Councilor Comments and Future Agenda Items

Councilor Jonathan Martell said that he has heard residents are having difficulty finding the orange PAYT trash bags. Mr. Buck explained that supply chain problems are affecting the trash bags along with everything else. He added that the 8 gallon (small) bags are not a common size for the vendor, so are not produced as often. Councilor Martell asked if the Solid Waste Subcommittee could address the issue and come up with a backup plan in case of extended unavailability.

Councilor Lanigan took the opportunity to promote Small Business Saturday and encourage Sanford residents to support local retailers. He said he will not be at the next regular Council meeting and explained that family commitments are the reason he did not seek reelection to the Council.

Councilor Hanselmann requested a discussion of Chapter 114 of the City Code (Disorderly Houses) and whether that could be expanded or adapted to include commercial properties as well as residential.

Councilor Lanigan asked for an update on work on a proposed zoning ordinance to allow adult-use marijuana sales.

The full City Council meeting may be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQPBleJ6rbU.

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