WATERVILLE — Planning Board Chairman David Geller was ousted from his position Monday night and replaced with a new chairman who was attending his first meeting as a board member.

The 5-2 vote to elect Nick Champagne chairman included favorable votes from Champagne’s father, Mark, and Bruce White, both of whom also were attending their first board meeting, and board members Paul Lussier and Jessica Laliberte.

The Champagnes and White were nominated for the Planning Board positions by Mayor Nick Isgro, and the City Council earlier this month affirmed those appointments.

Nick Champagne, 28, is a civil engineer who works for A.E. Hodsdon Engineers and recently represented the developer of a proposal by Jerald Hurdle for a car and dog wash on the former A.L. Weeks & Sons property on Kennedy Memorial Drive. That proposal was rejected by the City Council Aug. 17 last year.

Before that council vote, the Planning Board had voted 6-0 to postpone acting on a site plan for the car wash until the City Council had a chance to consider rezoning the property, prompting Isgro to send out a Tweet saying board members exposed the depth of their indecisiveness and ineptitude and a much better screening process was needed for planning board candidates. He later apologized to the board for his comments.

Geller had been a vocal opponent of rezoning the property for the car wash, saying it would amount to spot zoning, or rezoning a particular lot to accommodate the owner in the absence of any public necessity or need.

At the beginning of Monday’s meeting, Geller said the board needed to elect a chairman, as required by the city charter. Lussier insisted Laliberte be present to vote, saying she would be a bit late. She walked into the room shortly thereafter.

Lussier nominated Nick Champagne for chairman and Laliberte seconded his motion. Geller and Board member Scott Workman voted against electing Champagne.

Geller, 48, has been on the board 11 years, eight as chairman. He said after the meeting that he was surprised that he was not re-elected, “but only because I have been doing it for a while. I had thought that I was running organized meetings, and apparently the people on the board wanted to have somebody else run the show, which is fine. I was surprised, but I’m not upset.”

Champagne said he was “a little bit” surprised to have been elected. He said he knows some of the board members.

A member of the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District and Municipal Solid Waste Committee, Champagne said he was pleased to have been elected chairman.

“It’s always been a goal of mine to get back to Waterville,” he said. “I grew up here, went to Portland and came back. I love it here. I want to see the city grow. I want to create a better place for my son and make sure that happens.”

Nick Champagne took the planning board seat vacated by Jackie Dupont, who was elected to the City Council. Champagne’s father took a seat formerly held by Alicia Barnes, who moved. White took a seat formerly held by Justin DeMott, whose term was up, but Isgro did not nominate him to continue in that spot.

At Monday’s meeting, the board voted 5-2 to recommend to the City Council that 345 Main St. be rezoned from Commercial-C to Commercial-A to allow for a Taco Bell restaurant to be built there. Since the proposal does not meet the building setback requirement, the site needed to be rezoned.

Geller and Workman rejected the request because they wanted the wording of the recommendation to include protection for abutters 20 years down the road if the Taco Bell building were to be torn down and another building built in its place. They warned that, without the amendment, a new building constructed 20 years from now could be right up against an abutter’s property.

Lussier and Laliberte were adamant such language was not needed to send the recommendation to the council.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 


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