MOUNT DESERT — People who serve on the town’s Planning Board deserve to be paid, say members of the Board of Selectmen.
And they hope that if voters at town meeting this spring approve a $3,000-a-year stipend for each Planning Board member, more people will be willing to serve.
The board is supposed to have five regular members and two alternates. But currently there are only four regular members and one alternate. No one is waiting in the wings.
“We’ve been putting out a lot of feelers to potential members, and nobody wants to come on the board,” Planning Board Chairman Bill Hanley told the selectmen Monday night.
“It’s not like having a stipend would have them flooding through the door to be on the board, but it would help. We’ve had several meetings that had to be postponed because we didn’t have a quorum.”
Hanley said that in the five years he has been on the Planning Board, there has been a steady increase in conditional-use applications, which the board has to review and rule on. Each application requires a site visit by the Planning Board. The board also must approve applications for such things as the expansion of nonconforming structures and the reconstruction or replacement of buildings.
“We’ve got some extremely complex, involved projects under construction in the town,” Hanley said.
The proposed resumption of quarrying at a site in Hall Quarry has meant special meetings, three site visits and reams of documents for board members to look through.
“We’re now into the fourth year of the quarry and the second year of actual hearings,” Hanley said. “That’s a lot of demand on the board.”
Dennis Kiley recently stepped back from being a regular member of the Planning Board to being an alternate. He said that was primarily because of other demands on his time.
Service on the Planning Board not only takes a lot of time, but it can be stressful.
“Frankly, as we’ve seen with the quarry, despite our board’s intentions to really be of service to the community and to do something that is selfless by nature, I think it lends itself to a lot of people being unhappy and critical,” Kiley said.
“It is an unappreciated position that requires a lot of time and commitment and thought. When that is an unpaid position, it’s asking a lot for people to make that kind of commitment.”
In endorsing stipends for Planning Board members, Board of Selectmen Chairman John Macauley told Hanley, “I think your time commitment is probably even greater than ours.”
The selectmen voted unanimously to include $21,000 for planning board stipends – $3,000 per member – in the municipal budget for next fiscal year that voters will be asked to approve May 3.