More than half of the Windham Town Council at Tuesday’s nonvoting workshop meeting said they want to disband the PRIORITY Task Force, the committee the town established to implement changes and updates to the town’s land-use ordinances.

“Personally, I think the PRIORITY Task Force was ill-conceived from the start,” said Councilor Kaile Warren. The issue is on the agenda for the Aug. 14 meeting.

Task force members include town councilors, planning board members, Town Manager Tony Plante, planning director Brooks More, code enforcer Roger Timmons and members of the public. The task force is headed by facilitator Beth Della Valle.

Della Valle, a certified planner who has worked in Maine for the past two decades, has been paid $45,000 by the town since Oct. 25, 2005 at a rate of $75 per hour.

Warren said the 26 task force members are too polarized to work together and the meetings suffer from poor attendance. He said Della Valle uses a “feel-good policy, where no one is wrong and no one is right,” and is a poor leader. Warren said the task force was never given a clear vision when it was formed.

“They don’t have a clear definition of what they’re supposed to be doing,” said Warren. He said he wants the task force to be replaced with a board with a clear direction and a focused goal.

“I think we have a lot of house cleaning to do when it comes to committees,” said Councilor Blaine Davis. He said the task force has not produced the results it was created for and its members have gotten off-task. He said only a third of the members showed up to the last meeting.

“It’s time has come,” said Councilor Donna Chapman.

Councilor Liz Wisecup said the task force is spending too much time focusing on side projects and not the big issues recommended in the 2003 Comprehensive Master Plan.

“I wanted to get something started sooner rather than later on the ordinances,” she said. Wisecup said she has not seen enough results in the 18 months the task force has been active.

The Comprehensive Master Plan was released in 2003 to guide the usage of Windham land in the next decade. The task of putting the suggested plan into written rules was originally assigned to the town council, planning board, ordinance review committee and the comprehensive master plan implementation committee.

The work of these four boards was combined into one on March 24, 2006 because there was too much time being spent passing information and documents from one board to another.

Councilor Carol Waig said she was frustrated with the task force after her membership experience, but after doing some soul-searching she supports it.

“It’s like losing weight,” said Waig. “You didn’t gain it all in a year, you can’t lose it all in a year. She said the town’s ordinance problems took a long time to form and need more time to solve.

She said there are few citizens who volunteer to join the task force, including only one since the June council election.

Town council chairman John MacKinnon said he was concerned about how the actions recommended from the Comprehensive Master Plan will be met. He said vague phrases like “retain rural character” and “preserve open space” need to be defined before ordinances can be written.


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