Lincoln County News | Newcastle, ME
Friday, April 29, 2016 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 141 Issue 17

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6/11/2014 12:24:00 PM
Newcastle Residents To Consider Sign Ordinance, Budget Hike
By Tim Badgley


Newcastle will consider a 10 percent increase in the town budget and vote on sign regulations for the second consecutive year during annual town meeting.

Residents will gather at the Lincoln Academy gym at 7 p.m., Monday, June 16.

The Newcastle Land Use Ordinance currently regulates signs. The question before voters would repeal those regulations and enact a separate sign ordinance.

Voters rejected a proposed sign ordinance at the 2013 annual town meeting. Residents and sign committee members voiced opposition to the ordinance at the time.

Newcastle Selectman Ben Frey said there were changes to the proposed ordinance "that did not come from the actual sign committee."

In preparation for this year's meeting, Frey spearheaded a revamping of the ordinance by holding five workshops.

"We had very interested people attend and it was not dominated by business owners," Frey said. "There was good involvement from the planning board, the design review committee, the land use committee, and several other town committees."

Four public hearings were held with additional changes made to the proposed ordinance.

Frey said a major change from 2013's failed ordinance to the 2014 proposed ordinance is the elimination of the distinction between internally lit signs and directly lit signs. The 2014 ordinance would establish a calculation method "to measure the light coming from the sign," he said.

The maximum level of light is conservative when compared to surrounding towns, Frey said. "The level we decided on is quite a bit less," he said.

The total proposed municipal budget is $1,515,932, an increase over 2013 of $138,211. This increase is chiefly comprised of three budgetary items that did not appear in the budget presented at the town meeting last year.

A new budget item for the hiring of a land use consultant is set at $60,000.

According to Newcastle Town Administrator Lynn Maloney, the members of the Newcastle Board of Selectmen made inquiries into the cost of engaging the services of professional planners to create a comprehensive plan for the town and rewrite the land use code. Costs ranged between $100,000 and $400,000.

Frey said the land use ordinance should be "organized, easy to use and enforceable. It's argued that the current one does not meet those criteria." According to Frey, the town needs professional assistance to do this.

While the budget expense of $60,000 will not cover the entire cost of a professional planner for these services, Frey said, "we need to put aside some money to do this."

According to Maloney, the work should take more than a year to complete. If approved by the voters this year, Maloney said a planner could begin work immediately. A similar expense would appear in the 2015 budget for the completion of the planner's work.

Another expense that affects the increase is the downtown snowplowing contract, which was inadvertently left out of the 2013 budget. The item is set at $38,363.

A reserve account for highway equipment expenses, set at $15,000; and an increase of $15,000 in capital road project expenses, would add to the increase. The latter article would fund an ongoing paving project on North Newcastle Road.



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