Letters, July 3
To the members of the Belfast planning board
Thank you for your public hearing of June 25. Unfortunately I came away with more questions than answers after the "follow-up" remarks by Mr. Marshall. Living on Church Street in a clapboard house built around 1830, one of my primary concerns is fire safety. These houses are tinder dry after almost two hundred years; they burn swiftly. I embrace each nonconforming lot in the neighborhood as a potential firebreak. Perhaps Ms. Pinette of the Belfast Historical Society could give you some insights on the number of times this city has been almost completely destroyed by fire. Having conforming lots of 10,000 square feet in the historic district is a good thing, however, since there is no delineated Historical District how can anyone be sure if a nonconforming lot will be built upon or not? Perhaps mapping out and defining the Historic District would be a good and logical beginning.
Speaking of Ms. Pinette, I found her memo to Mr. Marshall on the proposed zoning status of the James White House (dating from 1973) to be interesting. In 1973 Belfast was in severe economic decline, the poultry industry was shrinking rapidly, the shoe factories were gone — not a high point in the city's economic history. The James White house is one of the most architecturally significant houses in New England. It's image has graced the cover of several books and been the topic of many articles and dissertations on Greek Revival architecture. I would think that we've come a long way towards better appreciating and preserving our grand architectural heritage since 1973. Spot zoning in order to accommodate a bank which has been foolish enough to bank an outrageous and now defaulted mortgage is grossly unfair to the neighboring property owners. The neighboring property values could easily be negatively affected by a restaurant or a large group home with more than seven beds. We have seen what can happen in Camden with Foxhill as an example. We have the ever deteriorating Bradbury Manor in our own backyard. Spot zoning is a slippery slope. To endanger the White House with the increased fire hazard of a restaurant and to bother neighbors with increased traffic noise and the consumption of alcohol is a bad plan.
The White House is the jewel in the architectural crown of Belfast. Its fate must be given long and careful thought, as should the future spot zoning of the Williamson House and the Alden Inn. I received a telephone call from friends in Hudson, N.Y. who were inquiring about buying the James White house and using it as a single family home — its best and safest use. They were completely put off by the property tax 21.91 mills and the history of ever increasing property taxes over the past few years. I believe that may be the crux of the problem going forward. The White House will sell when the price is right, much as the carriage House Inn in Searsport recently sold. Will the bank take a beating? More than likely they will; however, had they done their due dillgence they could have avoided this situation. The neighbors should not be penalized for the bank's poor judgement. The bank can take a tax loss against their ample profits from other more successful lending ventures.
As to the topic of condominiums, I could not hear the explanation from where I was sitting and have not clue as to what the policy might be. I would strongly suggest that the planning board not depend upon the RSU 20 school district for your next public hearing. Microphones are rarely, if ever, available. I would hope the Hutchinson Center or some more suitable venue could be used so that the taxpayers of Belfast might actually hear the proceedings clearly.
I'm Supporting Jonathan Fulford
Waldo County needs a change in its State Senate representation, and — happily for us — Jonathan Fulford is the man to carry out that change. In a meeting in Belfast last weekend, Jonathan met with scores of citizens to tell us about his plans and policies. He is firm, informed and thoroughly progressive: he will work for fair tax policies, accessible health care for all, and a clean, sustainable environment.
As a small-business owner himself, Jonathan supports small businesses and farms, and the kind of job creation that won’t run out on Maine, but will sustain the state’s resources over the long run. He respects a woman’s right to choose, and he will be a legislative ally to Wabanaki people. And, he is running a truly clean campaign.
Jonathan Fulford deserves our support! Together, we can send him to Augusta.
Thanks for a successful Green Thumb Plant Sale
Belfast Garden Club offers a most gracious thank you to the many donors who contributed to the club's annual Green Thumb Plant Sale last month. This year's event made over $4,000 in gross sales — one of the most successful in Garden Club history. This will allow us to continue our many civic projects including scholarships for students pursuing degrees in biology, agriculture, horticulture, permaculture and forestry. These funds also support the Garden Club's long-term care of many Belfast public gardens, free public education programs and garden-related books for local libraries.
A special thanks from the Belfast Garden Club to these generous local commercial donors: Bahner Farm, Carol’s Collectibles, EBS, Evergreen Valley Farm, Fernwood Nursery, Hidden Gardens, Ledgewood Gardens, Peacemeal Farm, Plants Unlimited, Roots & Shoots Nursery, and The Maine Garden — all within easy reach of the many Midcoast residents who bought their plants and who are encouraged to support them throughout the growing season. And thanks to all of you who contributed your own gardens’ plants, helping bring our buyers a record number of nearly 1,000 plants from which to choose.
Finally, a sincere thanks to the midcoast community for your strong support of the Belfast Garden Club, including our annual Green Thumb Plant Sale and Open Garden Friday Tours.
Thanks for supporting Our Town Belfast's auction and gala
On behalf of the board of directors of Our Town Belfast, I would like to thank the Belfast community for its outstanding support of our auction and gala, which was held on Friday, June 27. More than 150 people had the opportunity to outbid each other for a wide variety of Belfast area experiences and to enjoy delicious food and beverages donated by Trillium Caterers and Marshall Wharf Brewery. Many thanks go to both of these Belfast businesses. Thanks also to our sponsors, Front Street Shipyard, Pen-Bay Pilot and the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce.
In addition, many thanks go to the following contributors to the auction itself: Maine Scenic Airways, Anne Saggese, Kristen Burkholder LMT, Jennifer Howard, The Colonial Theatre, Therese Bagnardi, Michael Hurley, Megan Chase, Chases Daily, Megan Cullen, Salt Water Farm, Mark White, Michelle Berry, Moonbat City Baking Company, Joe Slocum, Seth Thayer, Greg Tinder, Eat More Cheese, Natalia and Tony Rose, Francis and Cara Owen, Jim LeClair, Kristen Lindquist, Coastal Mountain Land Trust, Adrienne Lee and Ken Lamson, New Beat Farm, Murray Carpenter, Kathryn Miles, Jerry Savitz, Darby’s Restaurant, Penobscot Marine Museum, Robin Peskoe, Kevin Johnson, Ned Lightner, Cellardoor Winery, The Cool Spot, Bryant Hall, Michael Casby, Garett Eisele, Henry Rusk Sail Co., Matthew Kenney, PlantLab, Tina DelSanto, Kat Loblein, LaVida Restaurant, Soone Hitt, Megan Pinette, Belfast Historical Society and Museum, Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railway, J.B. Turner, National Theatre Workshop for the Handicapped, Chris Roberts, The Juice Cellar, Jamie Oates, Mainely Pottery, Rollie’s Bar and Grill, Dave Crabiel and Camden National Bank.
Through the generosity of those listed above and all those who attended, we were able to raise more than $12,000 to support smart growth and historic preservation in the downtown area. If you were able to attend, I hope you enjoyed yourself. If not, perhaps you can join us for the 2015 edition (date to be announced shortly).
Chair of the Board, Our Town Belfast