Select Board Protocols, Trees, and Boats
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Time for updates on a few topics.
The Select Board held the first part of their annual workshop a few Saturdays ago. While the plan was to complete the session in one sitting, the discussion on meeting protocols and board function took up the time available, thus a second session will be held in early September where the focus will be on the Board’s strategic goals and priorities.
Regarding procedures and communications, the Board agreed on a set of action steps. Work will get underway on a Communications policy that more clearly specifies how the many comments that are received on a given topic (mostly emails) will be managed and shared. Most any correspondence is a public record and thus available to the public. An efficient means of managing the volume of comments is needed. Another communications related effort is the Board’s desire to make members more readily available to the public. Toward this end, Board members set up a “conversation corner” during the Festival by the Sea and plan similar conversation tables in front of the Post Office regularly as well as office hours on the first floor of Seaside 1.
An up-to-date project dashboard is to be maintained on the Town’s web site and a running spreadsheet tracking Select Board decisions and action items will be utilized to help ensure proper follow-up.
The Select Board would like to see stronger coordination amongst Town Boards and Committees. Toward this end, each committee and board will be asked to submit to the Select Board a summary of their mission/charge and their priorities for the next few months. The Select Board will ask various boards and committees to attend their meetings for periodic updates and discussions.
A standardized format for presentations before the Select Board will be implemented. Background information, a clear statement of the issue at hand, possible solutions and any staff/committee recommendations will be included. While regular meetings will continue to be held the first and third Mondays of the month, the 3rd Thursday of the month will be reserved for special meetings that focus on a particular topic.
Not too long ago, the Town’s Tree Policy received a make-over with the help of Friends of Manchester Trees. The policy clarified what constitutes a Town Tree (generally speaking, trees within 11 feet of the edge of pavement of a given road in more densely developed parts of town and specimen “Heritage Trees” regardless of location.) The presence of a stonewall or other long-standing property delineation may shorten this distance on a case-by-case basis as would other proof of a property line. Town trees must not be removed without first undergoing a review at a formal public hearing before the Select Board. Our Town Tree Warden works closely with the DPW in reviewing requests for town tree work and provides important input at all tree hearings.
If a Town Tree or Heritage tree is severely damaged or removed without permission the property owner will be required to plant new trees to replace what was removed. Several new trees may need to be planted to help make up for a large town tree that is removed. Before removing a tree near a town road please check with the DPW before proceeding.
A third topic that will receive more discussion later this fall is the use of the Harbor and Sand Dollar Cove. How best to manage what can be large numbers of boats anchoring in the Cove has been a point of debate in the past and just recently the concerns about the crowds have emerged again. Finding that right balance between allowing unrestricted access while ensuring safe use and respecting the rights of shore-front landowners can be a challenge. Overall harbor utilization is gaining attention. Visiting boaters provide a boost to our local businesses which is welcomed by some but not others. Our local marinas, which are two of the Town’s biggest employers have submitted expansion plans that will be the subject of local review by the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board. These proposals have spurred renewed interest in crafting a Master Plan for the Harbor. A discussion of harbor concerns is slated for the Select Board’s meeting of September 19, 2022.