Marion selectmen tackle appointments, cemeteries

Aug 21, 2019

MARION — Selectmen met Aug. 20 to approve two reappointments to the Conservation Commission, interview two candidates for the Zoning Board of Appeals, and discuss cemetery maintenance. 

The board approved on application from Sean Walsh, the current vice chair of the Conservation Committee. Walsh works in environmental law. He is a 21-year Marion resident and has attended conferences as training.  

Cynthia Callow was an elementary school teacher and did not have a professional background in conservation. However she has attended numerous workshops on conservation commission topics and believes she “has a lot more to learn.” She has lived in Marion 38 years. Selectmen also approved her application. 

Selectmen met with Margie Baldwin to discuss maintenance on town cemetery grounds. Baldwin said that in the past, cemetery commission volunteers have flagged bushes and trees to come down, but as of now the Department of Public Works has no employees who can remove them. 

Baldwin wanted someone with enough knowledge of local plants to be able to instruct DPW crews, which should hopefully have more time when that they will no longer be tasked with handling the town’s garbage collection. 

Town Administrator James McGrail said that he would be willing to talk with Baldwin and the DPW Director David Willett about long-term solutions to the problem, which might include a parks commissioner which would also cover cemeteries. 

Selectmen also interviewed Marc LeBlanc, current Zoning Board of Appeals chairman, for reappointment and Christina Frangos for possible appointment. At an Aug. 13 meeting, Selectmen also interviewed current member Michelle Smith and Edwin North for the two positions. 

LeBlanc and Frangos took opposite approaches to interpreting town bylaws. 

LeBlanc believes that some bylaws are “vague for a reason. They apply to different people in different ways.” He says he has “always erred on the side of caution with ‘let’s get a bylaw changed’” type of decision. 

Frangos is a corporate lawyer, and made a case that property values would only increase if owners could see that bylaws were applied consistently. She wants to make the bylaw more accessible for people, eliminating the need to come before a board to have something like fence placement approved. 

Selectman Norman Hills pointed out that the bylaws may have one version of a law that passed in the 1950s and another in the 1970s that conflict in their requirements. 

Frangos suggested the board look at recent historical cases, recurring topics and “focus on the pain points for residents first,” to resolve conflicts. 

In a public comment period following the interviews, resident Peter Douglas used all of his 5 minutes to state that Marc LeBlanc was unfit for the zoning board because he does not rely on precedents, was too closely tied with developers and that he was not truthful about respecting Town Counsel and the Building Inspector in his interview and had violated Open Meeting Law. 

Ted Wollenhaupt and another Zoning Board member defended LeBlanc, saying he had done a good job, and that a few people are always going to be unhappy with board decisions (Douglas was an abuttor to the Marion condos at 324 Front Street, and litigated with the Zoning Board after he disliked their opinion on the project). 

Selectmen will make appointments to the Zoning Board at their next meeting, after allowing more time for the public to comment.