RICHMOND — Near the end of Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Jeremy Purington waited for his chance to speak.

Purington, a Richmond developer, watched while the town’s elected board voted to add two citizens’ petitions to the Nov. 3 special meeting warrant along with the citizens petition he submitted earlier in September. 

All three have proposed changes to Richmond’s Land Use Ordinance and how residential subdivisions will be regulated and it will be up to voters to decide what they want to see.

Public hearings on all three petitions will take place Oct. 6 before the Planning Board and Oct. 19 with the Board of Selectmen.

On Monday, Purington wanted to make a point.

“I feel like there’s misconception that I asked the Planning Board to fix (the ordinance) and make it work for me,” he said. “I wasn’t asking them to fix it. They were going to fix it to be in line with every other project they have done.”

More than a year ago, he submitted a plan to develop a subdivision off Brunswick Road at the west end of Richmond. That area, like most of the rest of the rural town at the northern tip of Sagadahoc County, falls under the town’s agricultural district, where commercial and industrial development is discouraged, but where residential subdivisions are allowed.

While considering Purington’s proposal to build 14 houses, the Planning Board discovered that under state law, the board could not grant the waivers to development requirements that he had requested, and that others had requested and had been granted in the past.

After the Planning Board undertook revising the code, Purington said he waited for eight months to hear whether Richmond elected officials would put the changes on the Town Meeting warrant, and they opted not to.

After some consideration, he circulated a citizen’s petition that would put some of those changes in front of voters for consideration because of the board’s inaction and failure to respond to his emails.

“I just want to put it out there that this would be different if (the Planning Board’s proposal) was just allowed to go through the process,” he said.

And if selectmen didn’t like what the Planning Board had proposed, they could have given recommendations back to the Planning Board to consider.

“My personal answer to it is to throw it all out, and start over,” said Robert Bodge Jr., chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

But now that the petitions have been filed, that’s not possible, he said.

Tom Brown and Corey Munsey submitted the two petitions the selectmen voted on Monday, that offer up different proposals for changing subdivision regulations, including banning any waivers from being granted in one, and halting all subdivisions in town for two years to allow town officials and residents to work out how they want residential development in their agricultural district to take place.

Bodge said with the petitions, there’s no chance for anyone to talk through the issues or work to change anyone’s mind before a vote.

“None of that happened,” he said. “Bang, boom, bang, here comes the citizen’s petitions. Game over, now we go this way.”

Bodge said the board felt it wanted to see a different proposal from the Planning Board.

“We thought this needed some different changes from what we have right here,” he said.

But, in his personal opinion, the petitions were the wrong way to go.

“I do, too,” Purington said. “I didn’t want to go this route, but I didn’t feel like I had any options at this point.

Munsey was among those who objected to Purington’s project from the outset. He lives in a small subdivision to the north of Purington’s property, which was granted the development waivers that were later found to be problematic.

At Monday’s meeting, he said that working on these petitions, he was not doing it in his capacity as a member of the Planning Board. He was appointed as an alternate to that board in July. He noted that he would not vote on anything relating to Purington’s subdivision.

“I agree that people should sit down and chat, and actually proposed that specific thing,” he said. “I am happy to produce a document stating such to Mr. Purington, and that was declined.”

But Munsey has also shared his opinion about Purington and his project with town officials.

Through a public records request, Purington received a copy of an email dated April 12 from Munsey to James Valley and Adam Garland, Richmond’s code enforcement officer and town manager, respectively, and he read this quote from it:

“As you can imagine, I am not interested in allowing any sub-par houses or a sub-par development influence the property value of my, or my neighbors, property. Mr. Purington has a history of building houses in which there are an ample number of complaints due to poor quality and this should be of grave concern for the town.”

Munsey said it’s easy to characterize the petitions as personal, but for him it’s not personal.

“I’ve already checked a conflict of interest policy and I was told there wasn’t one,” he said. ” So, being ethical, I already told the Planning Board I wouldn’t be voting on anything that involves Mr. Purington.”

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