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'Oversight' leads to selectman's resignation

ROXBURY – Selectmen Mark Touchette and Deborah DeRoche accepted the resignation Friday of the town’s third and newly elected selectman, Christine “Tina” Howard.

They also accepted a petition that seeks to establish a 180-day moratorium on wind power developments to allow the town to research and create ordinances that would regulate such developments.

Both matters and others will be resolved at a special town meeting, possibly to be held mid-June.

Speaking Friday of Howard’s resignation, Touchette said that when a majority of town meeting voters on March 3 elected Howard – the town’s former town clerk, tax collector and treasurer – town officials weren’t aware that such a move was illegal.

According to Maine law, a tax collector can’t be elected as selectman or to any other elected position until the collector has completed his or her collection duties.

“Unfortunately, this could not have been done before the March 3 annual town meeting, because we had not elected a new tax collector at that time … It was an honest oversight,” Howard said, apologizing for any inconvenience the situation created.

Touchette and DeRoche voted to backdate Howard’s resignation to March 3. Since then, Howard said she has completed the required documents and given them to selectmen so she can again seek election to the board.

Nomination papers will be available at the board meeting Thursday, April 24.

Touchette was then elected as chairman Friday, which became vacant with Howard’s exit.

Regarding the three-page petition, based on legal advice, Touchette said the board had to accept it. However, he added, the petition doesn’t demand a revote of the March 3 town meeting ordinance amendment vote that OK’d the creation of a wind farm district.

Essentially, the petition is a proposed land-use ordinance that seeks to ban wind power development in Roxbury as of March 3 until the town can create and adopt zoning and land-use ordinances.

It requires planners to regulate wind power development “to minimize its deleterious effects on public health, safety and welfare.”

The petition also gives planners leeway to consider and recommend zones or districts in town where wind power development would be better suited.

It was drafted by a lawyer hired by the Concerned Citizens to Save Roxbury, people who didn’t believe they were given an adequate opportunity to address negative aspects of wind towers at the town meeting. In one day, they collected 89 signatures and presented them to selectmen.

“We’ve also been advised to do a revote on the (March 3) ordinance, because there were a few gray areas involved,” Touchette said. “We had a public informational meeting instead of a public hearing. It’s not the way I want to do it, but that’s what we’ve got to do … What was in the past is in the past. It’s just going to be a clean slate now. Hopefully, we can get started out on a new page.”

He also told members of Concerned Citizens – several of whom attended Friday night’s meeting – to convene informational meetings to make their arguments clear to townspeople prior to the special town meeting.

Group member Linda Kuras, who came to fight for the petition if necessary, was relieved by the board’s action.

“I’m very pleased that the selectmen have decided to act on the petition,” she said after the meeting adjourned.

By Terry Karkos
Staff Writer

Lewiston Sun Journal

12 April 2008