Seven candidates are running for two seats on the North Yarmouth Select Board in a political arena strained by local development concerns.
Incumbents James Moulton and David Reed are challenged by Paul Whitmarsh, Andrea Berry and Amy Haile for two three-year terms. Newcomers Kevin Robinson and Katherine Perrin are running for one-year terms in the June 14 election.
Residents and elected officials have been split recently on issues of growth, with some wanting to maintain the town’s rural character and others wanting to see more families and businesses move into town, particularly in the village centre.
In a divisive referendum in March, voters approved setting a cap of 15 on the number of building permits issued each year in the Village Center and Village Residential areas.
Berry, who is 41 and a Democrat, said the city should develop an open space plan that prioritizes land for conservation.
“The development response we see is what new development looks like, barren soil, sparse plants,” she said. “I believe nature can help us feel like it’s a rural place even though there’s a house behind those trees. We can still maintain woodlands and ensure that open spaces that are developed are usable and visible.
The board and residents need to find common ground, she said, including a shared value of the city’s parks and open spaces and a vision of how these could be improved. . Hosting more community events, like ice cream parties, would remind everyone that they’re all neighbors who want the best for the city, she said.
Berry has lived in North Yarmouth for about seven years and is the executive director of the nonprofit Wild Seed Project, based in the town. She is treasurer of the Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative, sits on the board of directors of Resources for Organizing and Social Change, and volunteers with the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition’s Prison Book Project. A former member of the SAD 51 communications committee, she graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in archaeology.
Haile, 49 and a Democrat, said recent negativity in town is a big reason she chose to run. She didn’t think it “represented the town she moved to and fell in love with” ten years ago. Everyone in town needs to take a deep breath and prioritize major issues, she said.
She said she would look at zoning restructuring to find “middle ground” on development, with different building caps for different areas.
Haile works at the University of New England and coaches youth football. She holds a degree in English from Carleton College and a Masters in Education from Simmons College.
Moulton, 73 and a Republican, said the tension in local politics is a reflection of what’s happening across the country with people everywhere “polarized up and down.” It is important to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and that all are treated with respect, he said.
The Select Board must “redress our zoning and strengthen our laws”. He said the pandemic and booming real estate market “have created the perfect storm” for rapid development and the city just has to figure out where it wants to go from here.
Moulton, an auto repair shop owner, has lived in the city most of his life, he said. He served on the Cumberland County Budget Advisory Committee for six years, the SAD 51 School Board from 2002-2005 and 2012-2015, and the Select Council for approximately five years.
Perrin, 38 and a Democrat, believes there has been a disconnect between longtime North Yarmouth families and new residents. Everyone needs to communicate more effectively “in order to bridge that gap,” she said.
She favors listening to “proven professional expertise” when it comes to analyzing sustainable growth in North Yarmouth.
Perrin has lived in North Yarmouth since 2014 and works as a clinical social worker. She previously served for six years on the board of directors of SAD 51, including two years as president.
Reed, 23, a longtime North Yarmouth resident who recently graduated with a degree in political science from the University of Southern Maine, said people need to ‘stop playing political games’ which contribute to tensions between elected officials and residents.
City development issues should be up to the voters, he said, and the select committee’s role is to be a body “that listens to the public and gives them a chance to vote and facilitate productive conversation. “.
Reed, who has worked as a landscaper and tutor, has served on the Select Board since 2021, following a special election. He refused to give his political party affiliation.
Robinson, 66, who also declined to share his political affiliation, said he believed the select committee had already done a good job of bringing the community together and working together.
He was supportive of the new building permit cap, he said, saying development need not come to a complete halt but needs to be thought through and managed well.
A mobile mechanic who has lived in the city most of his life, Robinson is president of the North Yarmouth Veterans Memorial Association and co-chair of the economic development and sustainability committee. He was also named North Yarmouth Citizen of the Year in 2017.
Whitmarsh, 54, said the pace of development in the town “has been far too fast” and that people need to focus on the town as a whole when it comes to maintaining its character, rather than focus only on the center of the village. They also “need to figure out, as a whole city, where we want to go,” he said.
The airline pilot and Navy veteran has lived in town for about 22 years, he said. He has volunteered as secretary of a homeowners association, treasurer of a youth sports club, and member of a church board. He declined to disclose his party affiliation.
Berry, Perrin and Haile jointly campaign and support each other for seats on the Select Board.
Voting will take place at Westustogo Hall and Community Center, 120 Memorial Highway, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 14.
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