Municipal Operations and Property Subcommittee
Maintaining Private Roads: The Subcommittee discussed the use of municipal equipment and labor to maintain private roads, mostly for snow plowing, but in the case of some unpaved roads, for grading as well. The issue arose during a meeting between Public Works Director Matt Hill and representatives of the Maine Municipal Association, which is the City’s insurer. The MMA was unaware of this practice and strongly recommends the City discontinue maintenance of these roads, which include Abenaki Lane, Clark Court, Emil Levasseur Drive (snow dump), Fisher Pond Road, Hazen Drive, Lafrancois Lane, Presidential Lane, Punky Parkway, SB Emery Court and others.
Mr. Hill said that most of the maintenance seems to have been done under informal agreements with now-retired DPW personnel, but in some cases the roads may have been discontinued and the maintenance just never stopped. He said it is not only a liability issue for the City to continue maintaining these roads, but also pointed out that taxpayer dollars could be saved if maintenance was eliminated.
City Manager Steve Buck said if there is a public easement on the road, the City may legally maintain the roadway but isn’t obligated to; if there is no public easement, it is illegal to use taxpayer funds to maintain it. He said each one will have to be investigated using historical records. If an easement exists, the City Council will need to vote on discontinuing the maintenance. If not, the property owner(s) will be notified. In either case they will be given a year’s notice to make alternative arrangements.
Rail Trail Task Force: The Subcommittee discussed the final report of the Rail Trail Task Force which was presented to the City Council at a recent meeting. The Task Force was appointed earlier this year with a specific mission to work on resolving conflicts of use and promote shared, safe, responsible usage of the Rail Trail, which is the only one of Sanford’s trails that allows ATVs.
Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio said the recommendation of the Task Force that the Council take ownership and responsibility of the trails is critical. While everyone present praised the work that the Trails Committee has done over the past twenty years, Mr. Buck said that the maintenance of the trails has gotten beyond the abilities of a volunteer group and the City needs to put resources into it. He also pointed out that as an advisory board, policies set by the Trails Committee cannot be enforced. All agreed that the two most important aspects – maintenance of the trails and enforcement of trail regulations – need to rest with the City.
The report breaks the Rail Trail down into individual sections, with recommendations for each. Mr. Buck said he expects to be hiring a new Parks and Recreation Director for the City within the next month, who could work with the Trails Committee on prioritizing maintenance and developing a budget for next year. As far as enforcement goes, the Police Department is already training officers who will have a patrol presence on the trails.
Hazen Carpenter of the Trails Committee spoke and voiced his opposition to the City taking charge of the trail system. He said the recommendation of a majority of the Trails Committee members (to ban ATVs from the Rail Trail) was never given consideration by the Council. Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy responded that the weight of the Council was needed behind rules and regulations for the Rail Trail, and that an action to ban any users could not be taken without first establishing that framework and testing its effectiveness. Councilor Jonathan Martell agreed.
Legacy Funds: The Subcommittee discussed the expenditure of $4,000 left over from the Sanford Downtown Legacy group. The Planning Board and Design Review Committee had discussed the funds a year ago and had determined that it would best be spent on lighting for the alleyway that connects the parking lot behind City Hall to Main St., with the remainder used for picnic tables for Central or Gateway Park. But various issues cropped up and the work was never done. There was consensus to start over and let the new Friends of Downtown group have input on how the money will be spent.
Paving at Veterans Cemetery: Mr. Buck had a request from the Board of the Southern Maine Veterans Cemetery to have the City pave a very small area that was previously grass. Code Enforcement Officer Jamie Cole said it would require a small change to the Cemetery’s site plan, which could be handled by staff. He said the Cemetery has more traffic than they originally anticipated, so they wanted to increase the parking area. All agreed that if it is legal for the City to do the work, the request will be approved.
Executive Session: The Subcommittee went into Executive Session to discuss the disposition of six parcels of land in the vicinity of Malcolm Ave. and Daylight Ave. that were acquired by the City for back taxes. A buyer is interested in building out the subdivision that was begun by a previous owner and never completed.
Public Safety Subcommittee
Unlawful Parking Ordinance: A proposed ordinance to address concerns about overnight parking was discussed with Police Chief Craig Andersen. To prevent road damage, the latest revision of the proposed changes would prohibit commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds from parking overnight on a public way or City property. A section prohibiting vehicles in excess of 20 feet in length from parking for more than 20 minutes was challenged by City Manager Steve Buck, who said that some Ford pickups are 21 feet long. Chief Andersen agreed that a weight limit was a better way to identify true commercial vehicles. Mr. Hill added that if a vehicle is parked for loading and unloading, there would be leniency on the time limit.
Another new revision adds a prohibition for sleeping in a vehicle for more than four consecutive hours, as there have been complaints about people living out of vehicles for extended periods of time. A new proposed section allows the Chief of Police to allow exemptions to any prohibition. Chief Andersen said this “allows for common sense and empathy” with regard to emergency situations. An addition to the section on impoundment will allow Sanford Police to remove vehicles that are in violation of any of these parking prohibitions, which they currently are unable to do. The proposed ordinance will have a first reading at the City Council meeting on November 9.
Covid-19 Monitoring: Community Development Director Ian Houseal presented the latest Covid-19 and vaccination statistics. He said the vaccine clinics held by the School Department enabled Sanford to move into the “green” category on the state vaccination rate map, which means we have fewer than 2,000 eligible people remaining unvaccinated. Sanford and Springvale currently have a vaccination rate of 88% and 87%, respectively, but community transmission is still high throughout the state. All Sanford schools are in outbreak status except Pride Elementary.
Mr. Buck said, according to York County officials, the vaccination clinic at the former Marshall’s store is still seeing about 200 patients a day. These include Pfizer boosters as well as primary shots. Walgreen’s is also giving booster shots. He said the comparatively low vaccination numbers in Lebanon and Berwick are driven by residents of those towns who work in New Hampshire and got their shots there.
Trimming of Shrubs and Foliage in Public Areas: Detective Colleen Adams joined the discussion to speak about issues with certain areas of the City where people are sleeping and conducting illegal activity in brushy areas, most notably at Number One Pond and the staircase at Midtown Mall. Deputy Mayor Herlihy and Councilor Ayn Hanselmann both said it was primarily a maintenance issue, and that both the City and local businesses need to do a better job of keeping their landscaping trimmed so that it doesn’t become camouflage for illegal activity. Mr. Houseal pointed out that shoreland zoning regulations might limit the amount of trimming that can be done along Number One Pond. He added he is currently working on the lighting for the stairway at Midtown Mall, and once that is restored, problems in that area might be reduced.
Mr. Buck said that planning regulations encourage developers to plant trees and shrubs that are difficult to maintain, when perennial plantings and tall grasses might be more suitable. He said that lighting alone won’t solve the Midtown Mall issue and encouraged the Police Department to “take back the hill…being homeless is not a crime, but the abuse of public property is.” Mr. Houseal said he will review the landscaping in the stair area with Parks Director Brian Desrochers.
Holly Daze: The Subcommittee heard about plans for the December 3 Holly Daze event from Recreation Director Lori Hegarty. There will be a parade down Main St. from Lenox St. to St. Ignatius St. A $25 registration fee will be charged to participate in the parade. She is still working out the details for getting Santa Claus to Central Park for the tree lighting. She hopes to have participation from local businesses as well. Chief Andersen said it is imperative that no candy is thrown from moving vehicles, as this encourages children to dart out into traffic. It will be a rain or shine event. Ms. Hegarty said the Recreation Department is still looking for the perfect Christmas Tree for Central Park.
Townhouse Solar Project: see separate story.
Short Term Rentals: Mr. Houseal reviewed some statistics around single family home rentals in Sanford. He said almost 10% of single family homes in our community are owned by people who live out of town, but that is in keeping with national norms. 26% of those have an out of state address. He said his concern is whether these homes are properly maintained, but said he doesn’t see a problem yet. He said he and the Code Enforcement office are keeping an eye on the Air BnB rentals in Sanford for any potential nuisance problems. Deputy Mayor Herlihy said the Council needs to stay ahead of the issue as other towns have seen problems. Councilor Hanselmann responded that Sanford is much better prepared than other communities, with the licensing and inspection programs we have in place.
Planning Department Activity: Planning Director Beth Della Valle went over the list of applications that have been reviewed in the past two months. See separate story. There was some discussion around the requirement for four Planning Board members to sign off on plans, which has caused delays. One signature has to be from the Chair, and he works long hours. Options for ways to get around this were discussed, including delegating authority to the Vice Chair, or having the Chair sign digitally. Ms. Della Valle said she will propose removing the signature requirement in the next Zoning ordinance update, as there is plenty of documentation on plan approval already.
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