Knight gets a raise
TOPSHAM — Following a formal evaluation behind closed doors, Topsham selectmen ended Thursday night’s meeting by voting unanimously to grant Town Manager Cornell Knight a 2 percent raise.
Following Knight’s yearly review, Selectman David Douglass introduced a motion “that we vote to approve a 2 percent pay raise, and this money is already appropriated in the 2011-2012 budget, to the manager.”
The motion was passed 5-0.
Knight started as Topsham’s top administrator on Feb. 1, 2011, after former town manager James Ashe retired in December 2010. Terms of Knight’s original contract called for him to earn an annual salary of $93,000, plus benefits.
Selectman Andrew Mason praised Knight’s work during his first year at the helm of Topsham municipal government.
“I thought he did a wonderful job and I appreciated the service,” Mason said.
Donald Russell, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, described Knight’s performance review as very positive.
“We’re all happy with the job that our town manager did for us and are looking forward to another successful year with him,” Russell said.
The Board of Selectmen also heard from Assistant Planner Rod Melanson about amendments to the town’s Historic Overlay District by the Historic District Commission. The commission held public meetings and incorporated most of the feedback into planning the proposed amendments, Melanson said.
“I think it is a very accommodating ordinance to the residents who live there,” Melanson said. “I think we’re hitting our goals, bringing more clarity as well as really maintaining the integrity of the district.”
As drafted, the ordinance would classify properties within the overlay as contributing or non-contributing in relation to the visual character of the historic district. Separate standards would apply to contributing and non-contributing properties.
With five different existing overlay districts, the new language would list parcels included in the district and focuses on visual appearance of structures from a public way.
“Visual compatibility is really the issue, not preserving something in time so that, all of a sudden, it all deteriorates," Melanson said.
Melanson said the Historic District Commission, which continues to seek input, plans to present the amendments during a Planning Board workshop on Tuesday. The amendments will be back before the Planning Board at a public hearing in March.
Russell, speaking of problems he observed with the historic overlay district while serving on the Board of Appeals for many years, said Thursday that, “ Overall, I think this is a great change.”
Melanson also updated the board on the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee’s work to amend the zoning and subdivision ordinances, which aim to implement recommendations of the Natural Areas Plan that is now a part of the town’s comprehensive plan.
Melanson said the town’s desire to conduct open space planning dates back to 1992.
The draft amendments allow for conventional subdivisions as they exist today. It also allows conservation or open space subdivisions, and large lot subdivisions, that have their own sets of standards.
The new subdivision categories are not mandated in the ordinance and it is the applicant’s choice to decide what suits their property the best, Melanson said.
The CPIC will be holding a workshop with the Planning Board Tuesday to consider the amendments, which are expected to be on the May town meeting warrant.
In other business Thursday, selectmen:
— Unanimously voted to take an amended dog ordinance to town meeting in May.
Knight told the board at its meeting Thursday that the draft before them incorporated changes made by the town’s attorney following a selectmen’s workshop on the ordinance in January.
— Tabled discussion of a local option excise tax exemption for vehicles owned by Topsham residents who are on active military duty and stationed outside of Maine or deployed for more than 180 days, but who still wish to register their vehicles in Maine.
The proposal comes in response to a new state law that took effect Jan. 1.
Knight told selectmen, “We don’t know how many people” could qualify for the exemption. For that reason, the town manager could not assess the financial impact on the town if the exemption becomes available.
— Fire Chief Brian Stockdale told selectmen he is working on updating the town’s fire prevention codes to make them align better with state code. He is also working on a requirement for a knock box — a secure box kept in the fire trucks with keys to buildings — that would be required for commercial and multi-family buildings.
Stockdale also told selectmen that he’s working on creating a civil penalty for violations of fire codes after observing a lack of incentive for some property owners to correct issues.