Free homeowners

The article by Ethan Andrews on "County quietly gutted incoming treasurer's pay" (Jan. 10 issue) was well done and very well researched. He should receive very positive recognition for his time spent researching what he reported on.

Commissioner Betty Johnson was quoted in the article as writing an email that stated she wanted the position of the treasurer to have " … no power …, " which I found interesting in view of state statutes that define the role of the treasurer. In any event, I did not run for the position for "power" but rather as a platform to be a voice for the homeowners of Waldo County to fight for lower property taxes.

In keeping with this promise, I have recommended that next year's county budget have a 5-percent reduction in it to bring us back to where we were at before the new budget was improved with a 5-percent increase, resulting, of course, in 2019, in more property taxes, not less.

I have also recommended, and will continue to do so, that we find ways to reduce the budget by 1 percent per year over the next five years, once the 5-percent reduction goes into effect. I have begun the reduction with a 75-percent cut to my job as treasurer as recommended by the commissioners.

I also will not be taking advantage of any "perks" that this position offers. I do not need reimbursement for gas or food or any such thing. A small life insurance policy is given with the job, and as far as I know it does not cost the county anything, so I have taken advantage of that. I did not run for any benefits but rather for the benefit of the residents of Waldo County, period!

I will also be looking forward to testifying before the House and Senate appropriations committees in Augusta and working on ways in which we can reduce the major driver of property taxes, and that is the financing of local school districts on the backs of homeowners.

Holding homeowners hostage to the funding of our public schools is simply wrong and it needs to change now. Imagine if your property taxes only went to finance your local town and county needs. The average homeowner would see a reduction in their property taxes of between 60 percent and 70 percent. The average homeowner would have an additional $1,000 to $3,000 to spend on things they need or to add to their savings for a rainy day.

I have received some creative ideas for accomplishing the goal of reducing property taxes from local residents as the battle to reduce our property taxes begins to take shape. I am open to more and encourage anyone to email me at abundant@fairpoint.net with your ideas as well.

It took Wilberforce in England over 20 years to end the country's deplorable institution of slavery and I am hopeful we can accomplish our goal of freeing homeowners from the deplorable ever-rising property taxes in Waldo County and the state of Maine.

Peter Sheff

Waldo County Treasurer

Morrill

Devaluing a historic neighborhood

When Peirce School opened its doors at Church and Elm streets in 1915, its classical architecture reflected the dignity and stature of the homes surrounding it.

Church Street was and still is a major gateway into the city of Belfast. The architecturally significant homes lining Church Street today look much the way they did in 1915. These beautiful old homes are among many 19th-century homes lining the streets of our community; homes that have been lovingly cared for, restored, and maintained for decades at great expense by a succession of concerned and responsible owners with a nod to and respect for the past.

These often grand reminders of yesterday illustrate the story of a glorious commercial past. They serve not only to promote a sense of local pride and a sense of history, but also to create a beautiful and harmonious tourist attraction.

Together with other well-conceived and realized community projects such as Heritage Park, Harbor Walk and United Farmers Market, all promoted by generous foresighted, civic-minded individuals, Belfast today is enjoying a renaissance of significant proportion. It has become a major tourist destination. The city needs to continue to make good decisions to advance this end.

But the newly proposed rezoning of Church Street to include eight rental units in the former Peirce School threatens this picture. A high-density commercial property was never meant to be realized in this quiet neighborhood. None of us who bought into the area did so with the prospect of having to fend off a large-scale big city development totally incongruous to its location.

As described, the proposal threatens the peace and sanctity of our way of life — the very quality of life we bought into when we purchased our homes. Many of us are in retirement and have made significant financial decisions based on this fact.

Eight rental apartments will not be a welcomed addition to our neighborhood. It will increase pollution in the form of traffic, light and noise. An outdoor lighted parking lot will be a visual distraction.

Our neighborhood was led to believe a smaller condo development of high-quality units would be considered when the time was right. The sudden rush to overpower neighborhood concerns relative to this project, citing community need, is frightening and smacks of big government shortsightedness and insensitivity.

There is land a plenty throughout Belfast and beyond that is suited to a large-scale development. Much-needed apartment housing can be built without severely disrupting and devaluing a 19th-century historic neighborhood by decree — and forever.

Just because you can does not mean you should.

Patricia Hagerty

Belfast

Idyllic neighborhood that never existed

I read online (waldo.villagesoup.com) the piece, Peirce School conversion “Delve Deeper,” by the Church Street Neighbors. You know what? I am a neighbor and when I got to the end of the piece I didn't see my name. Nor did I see any of my immediate neighbors' names, so I wondered, “Who are all these people?”

I knew six of the names and another 32 I didn't recognize. So I took their advice and decided to “delve deeper” and looked at the city's website that lists property owners. I found only seven of the names on the 2017 tax records.

Maybe the other 31 have moved here more recently and the city's website hasn't caught up? Or maybe the list is puffed up a bit? It wouldn't be the first piece of hyperbole or scary rumor that has been produced by the designated “Church Street Neighbors.”

They complain that there hasn't been enough time to make an informed decision, that somehow they've been railroaded by holidays and blindsided by other inconveniences. But, they've had plenty of time to stir up chimeras of “sober houses” and “affordable housing,” and to insinuate that renters wouldn't keep the property up to the standards of “this stately neighborhood, with its elegant single-family homes.” (There are apartments up and down Church Street already.)

They suggest that we need “outside professional analysis,” which I assume means they're unhappy with the way things have gone with the Planning Board and City Council so far.

They are worried about the traffic for eight apartments? Obviously they didn't live here when Peirce was a school and there were buses coming and going, PTA meetings, sliding boards, swing sets, and very noisy recesses. Or maybe those few who were here have forgotten how nice it was to have kids in the neighborhood?

I didn't see any acknowledgement that Belfast needs housing. Or, for that matter, any suggestions that add to civic sustenance. How do we encourage young entrepreneurs? How do we provide attractive housing for the talented young people that are this city's future?

Tenants for eight new apartments will generate taxes, will eat in our restaurants, will need their plumbing fixed, their hair cut, they will buy bicycles, and pizzas, and movie tickets. Maybe they'll even buy a house and raise a family. I did.

In 1984 I rented an apartment on High Street and then, 33 years ago, I bought our house on Church Street, then my son was born, and eventually he started school down the block at the Peirce School.

Oversight, questions, and standards are appropriate for all development. We have functioning mechanisms for this. But obstruction, simply to maintain an idyllic neighborhood that frankly never existed, adds nothing.

Rick Cronin

Belfast

Editor's note: The fully signed "Delve deeper" piece (referenced above) arrived too late for the Jan. 10 issue of The Republican Journal and, at the writers' request, was published online. It appears this week in our opinion section.

Christmas dinner thanks

On behalf of Adas Yoshuron Synagogue, I’d like to thank the many Midcoast businesses who donated food, gift certificates, and greenery to our 29th annual Christmas dinner at St. Peter’s Church in Rockland. We served over 125 people this year and sent food home as well.

Here are the businesses we’d like to thank: In Warren, we want to give a big shout out to Mainely Poultry, which donated eight huge turkeys for our dinner. Thank you to Hampton Inn and Suites in Thomaston.

In Belfast, thank you to All About Games, Bangor Savings Bank, Belfast Co-op, Darby’s Restaurant, Ducktrap River of Maine, Eat More Cheese, The Green Store, Hannaford, Dr. Michelle Morrow, Out on a Whimsey, Nautilus Restaurant, Rollie’s Bar and Grill, and Trillium Caterers. In Lincolnville, thanks to Dot’s and The Red Barn Marketplace.

In Camden, thank you to The Allen Agency, Boynton McKay, Camden Hills Dental Care, Camden National Bank, Megunticook Market, Planet Toys, Uncle Willy’s, and The Waterfront Restaurant.

In Rockport/Rockland, thank you to The Atlantic Baking Co., Bangor Savings Bank, First National Bank, Fog, The Good Tern Co-op, Graffam’s Seafood, Green Thumb, Hannaford, Home Kitchen, In Good Company, Laugh Loud Smile Big, Market Basket, Main Street Markets, Maine State Cheese Co., Maine Street Meats, Plants Unlimited, Rock City Cafe, Rockland Savings Bank, Samoset, Seasons Downeast, Shaw’s, Sweet Sensations, TD Bank, Dr. David Theriault, Wallace Tents, and Waterworks Restaurant.

Please remember these businesses as you do your shopping!

Linda Garson Smith

Belfast

A tale of two news outlets

One month ago The Republican Journal parted ways with Lawrence Reichard. This was in my opinion, a positive move. In his frenetic opposition to Nordic Aquafarms’ proposed farm, Lawrence misrepresented sources in Denmark and exaggerated facts.

One of The Journal’s stated reasons for parting ways with Lawrence was that it didn’t want to become known as the anti-fish farm paper. However, even setting aside Lawrence’s opinion columns, it seems as though the reporting from The Journal on the proposed fish farm regularly takes an unfairly negative tone.

Take the latest twist in the fish farm drama: Belfast resident Holly Faubel has appealed the Bucksport project’s DEP permit, delaying the project by a month or more. Ms. Faubel dubiously claims that Whole Oceans’ discharge flow will unsettle mercury-laden sediments in the river floor (despite the discharge being a fraction of the former mill’s volume), while also claiming that incoming mercury will be transformed through an unlikely biological process into a more toxic form. The validity of these claims will be sorted out in the coming months by regulators, scientists, and investigators.

My concern however, is not necessarily about Ms. Faubel’s appeal, but about how The Journal reported on this development. An article released by The Journal Jan. 10, entitled “Belfast resident appeals permits for Bucksport salmon farm,” describes each of Ms. Faubel’s grievances and treats them as if they were established fact. There is no mention of any attempt to reach out to Whole Oceans for a response, or to any professional scientist at UMaine who is qualified to weigh in on her claims.

The language of the article seems to lend Ms. Faubel credence, despite there being no scientific literature supporting her scenarios. The article parroted Ms. Faubel’s claims to such an extent that it copied her typo (un-iodized instead of un-ionized ammonia), a clear indication that no outside expertise was consulted.

By contrast, the Bangor Daily News published an article two days later entitled “Developer: Belfast woman has no standing to challenge $250M Bucksport salmon farm.” In this article, Ms. Faubel’s claims are treated with some degree of skepticism. Both sides were solicited for comment and Whole Oceans’ response was explained. The extent of the damage and delay done to the project by Ms. Faubel’s appeal is also explored.

I feel that this is only one example of a larger trend. The Republican Journal continues to appear as the anti-fish farm paper. Press is rarely given to the positives of these projects, such as the ecological sustainability of land-based aquaculture (as opposed to depleting natural populations, or growing fish off the coast with no filtration whatsoever), and the benefit of a diversified local economy.

Meanwhile, the opposition is consistently given a voice, with their opinion aired as though it were truth without a fact (or spelling) check. Opinion letters from a rolling cast of opponents are published on a weekly basis opposing the fish farms, despite being nearly identical to one another.

My hope going forward is simply that The Republican Journal will either attempt to be more neutral in their reporting, or make it a standard practice to consult with independent experts.

Elias Ayrey

Old Town

Editor's note: See Page XX for our update on Ms. Faubel's appeal and Whole Oceans' response.

Status of Nordic motions

I would like to set the record straight regarding the issues we have raised concerning Erik Heim’s industrial salmon factory project permitting legal process.

Right, title and interest is a legal right to use, or the outright ownership of, certain lands required for an applicant to have standing. Positive proof of these rights is entirely the legal responsibility of the applicant, Mr. Heim, not the neighboring citizens or much less the state or any of its employees.

Cianbro Corp., Ransom Engineering, their employees and Nordic's legal firm submitted, on Sept. 27, 2018, a plan for the Nordic‘s factory discharge pipe, submerged land lease application. It is on file with the state Submerged Land office. This plan shows the proposed pipeline crossing the intertidal property of Dr. Lydon Morgan of Belfast without any legal right to do so, and then proceeding into the water approximately 1,000 feet away at low tide onto the littoral zone of Dr. Morgan and others.

Astonishingly, the Submerged Lands office and the DEP accepted this proposal as adequate, in regard to right, title and interest, and on Nov. 9, 2018, DEP found that the right, title and interest “proof” for Nordic's wastewater discharge application was acceptable. On Nov. 8, 2018, I formally commented and asserted that this was not the case.

Despite the issues I raised, and the subsequent admission of the failure of this plan, DEP went ahead with its acceptance of the application Nov. 9 as “complete.” Commissioner Paul Mercer resigned that day.

In mid-November, Nordic’s “amended plan” appeared, and the so-called “amended” application for a submerged public lands lease is likewise seriously flawed, as admitted to me by Mr. Heim, in person, on the step of Baywrap Restaurant Dec. 17, 2018.

The serious flaws in Nordic's plans, and the hiding of the supposed evidence of claimed rights, have resulted in a filing with DEP of a nine-page motion to dismiss Nordic's application on substantive grounds, and a further eight-page motion with more factual and graphic evidence in early January, both on behalf of the aggrieved parties.

As of this writing, we await findings on these motions by Tom Desjardins, director of Parks and Lands; Melanie Loyzim, acting DEP commissioner; Gov. Janet Mills and her attorney general; and the new head of DEP, on the numerous issues we raised challenging Nordic's right, title and interest claims.

This letter is to update to this week all issues still on the table with no substantive response from the AG or DEP.

Paul Bernacki

Montville

That 'O' thing

This is my thought on Pat Clarke's opinion of the Mount View Chamber Singers, the "O" position. Well, there's "O" position for singing and "O" for a straw in your mouth sucking up a milkshake or blowing out a candle.

And then there's "Oh!" which is a response from somebody who was just told something and that could be anything.

But in Pat Clarke's case, it is this. If you don't have anything nice to say about somebody, don't say anything at all, and when next December rolls around, there's one of two things you can do: 1. stay home, or 2. put your big girl boots on, slap a hearing aid in your ear and suck it up.

Susan Fuller

Montville

P.S. My hat's off to you, Miss Childs, musical director. You go girl!