Achieving a quorum a challenge for boards

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — When Jesse Dunbar accepted the code enforcement clerk’s job with the town recently, he resigned from his position on the Planning Board.

Earlier this year, long-time Planning Board member Mike Magnani resigned prior to the end of his term. A couple of months later, board member Chris Rawls was asked to resign because he no longer is a resident of the town, one of the requirements to serve.

Currently, there are five members on the seven-member board.

With a seven-member board, four members must be present at a meeting to achieve a quorum, which is required for decision making and approving applications.

Meetings in Southwest Harbor are scheduled to take place two times a month, as needed. If there are no applications or site visits to be reviewed, there is no meeting.

Finding new members to join the board, a five-year commitment, has not been easy.

Town Manager Justin VanDongen said he is not sure why, but he cites lack of time as one reason and a disinterest in the process as another.

“I think land use has become something that people only care when it’s in their neighborhood,” he said.

In Tremont, serving on the Planning Board is also a five-year commitment. Earlier this year one member of the board, Scott Grierson, was dismissed due to several unexcused absences from meetings. Since that dismissal, selectmen have waived the attendance policy for three other members. The policy requires members to attend at least 75 percent of meetings each 12 months.

“It has become a more recent topic,” said Town Manager Chris Saunders. “After the incident with Scott Grierson last winter I’ve become more diligent about it. I wanted to make sure we weren’t just picking on him.”

When asked if a five year commitment could be a deterrent for service, Saunders didn’t think it was.

“We’re having difficulty filling up our Rec Board, and that’s a three year commitment,” he added.

In Mount Desert and Bar Harbor planning board members serve for three-year terms.

Tremont, Southwest Harbor and Mount Desert all have seven-member Planning Boards. Bar Harbor has a five-member board.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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