DRESDEN — The town’s administrator says he is not concerned about the legal force of the town’s Land Use and Planning Ordinance after an attorney representing a gravel pit owner questioned the rules’ validity because there’s no record of it being enacted.

Tuesday an attorney representing a Dresden gravel pit owner said at a Board of Appeals hearing that Dresden’s Land Use and Development Ordinance is invalid because there’s no evidence it was properly enacted. Ed Dardis is representing Ballard-Milligan Gravel Corp. owner Heather Beasley in her appeal of stop-work order issued at the end of July.

In seeking information through public records requests for this case, the search turned up no indication the ordinance was enacted decades ago — only that it existed in 1974.

On Thursday, Dresden Town Administrator Michael Henderson said the town doesn’t have detailed records from before the year 2000 that he can find.

Dresden Town Administrator Michael Henderson poses for a portrait June 26 at the Dresden Town Office. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

“Would it be good and should we have the records? Yes, we should,” he said. “Is it responsible to assume that if we don’t have the records nothing ever happened?”

Henderson said Dresden has had a town office only for about three decades now. Before that, town business was transacted in the homes of its town clerks.

“We’re a town that has been around for 200 years,” he said. “I don’t have a Town Meeting report for the year 1910, but I still assume that the town of Dresden ran that year, that they had a Town Meeting and collected taxes. I don’t have proof that we did run in the year 1910, but unless we have affirmative proof that we didn’t, we need to work off the assumption that things were done.”

Henderson said Dresden has Town Meeting reports from 1970 through 2019, and the reports contain the town warrants in them for each of those Town Meetings. Before that, the reports contain only the upcoming warrants.

“From 2000 through now, we have pretty detailed records of all the notices that went out for public meetings, all of the actual warrants, what the results were and what the election results are,” he said. “There may be some records up in the attic that we haven’t found yet. There may be some records in the basement that we currently have in plastic wrap because of water damage a a couple years ago.”

A call to Jessica Avery, the town’s attorney, was not immediately returned Thursday.

The Maine Municipal Association, which provides services to its member municipalities, also provides training on issues important to its members, including records retention.

“Generally speaking, our members and municipal clerks statewide take their records retention requirements very seriously,” Eric Conrad, MMA’s director of communications and educational services, said. “It comes up at all kinds of workshops I speak at. The clerks take it very seriously.”

Under the state’s record retention requirements, minutes of meetings and municipal warrants are considered records to be kept permanently.

“Forty years ago, (town government) was run out of people’s houses,” Henderson said. “That’s a different way to run a government. Whether or not it’s the responsibility of the current town office staff or the residents of a municipality to be held responsible for not being able to track down records of 90 years ago, that’s up to a court to decide.”

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