NORTH YARMOUTH — An academic coach and a former select board member are in the running to fill the seat vacated by Paul Napolitano in a special election slated for March 23.

The board read Napolitano’s letter of resignation at its Oct. 6, 2020 meeting, but the letter did not indicate a reason for his resignation and board members did not discuss one.

David Lawrence Reed is running against write-in candidate Stephen H. Palmer to serve out the remainder of Napolitano’s term, which ends June 30, 2022. Reed, who holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Southern Maine, is a political neophyte, while Palmer has served on several committees in town and has been a member and past chairperson of the select board.

Both candidates said they would defer to state and federal guidelines when it comes to coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

“COVID-19 is not an issue that one can hope to solve with local politics,” Reed said. “COVID-19 requires state and national policies. All that one can do is brace and plan for any long-term issues the town may face because of the pandemic.”

Palmer said: “Priorities are those established and required by the state. We follow them like any other town and city.”

As a select board member, either candidate may have to weigh in on allowing retail marijuana businesses in town. A survey conducted in 2020 by the North Yarmouth Economic Development & Sustainability Committee found that 61% favored the establishment of such a business, with even stronger support for specific marijuana-related businesses such as laboratory research, manufacturing and cultivation.

When asked about the survey and his opinions on marijuana-related businesses, Reed said the survey was not enough to provide a representative sampling of public opinion.

“The whole town needs a chance to vote on any proposed changes to marijuana ordinance through a referendum,” Reed said. “It is the only way to ensure everyone has a voice in making a large decision like this.”

Palmer said he was not opposed to marijuana businesses in town, especially if the public supports them.

“My decisions, as a select board member, would be guided by the results of the survey and public input,” he said. “The results of the survey certainly suggest this town is prepared to move forward on the issue.”

As to other priorities, Reed said he is focusing on stabilizing and lowering property taxes. He said he’s concerned taxes are driving older residents out and bringing in younger families with children that could add to the tax burden in the community.

“A child costs more per year as a student than a house provides in property tax to the town/district,” Reed said. “This is causing a positive feedback loop which we need to counter or control. We may need to reinstate some cap on development, provide incentives to build senior housing and give tax breaks to longtime residents of the town.”

Palmer said he supports the town’s long-term plans to promote higher population density in the center of town.

“The 2018 comprehensive plan’s vision statement is clear in its intent to preserve the rural character of the town while focusing on increasing population density within the village center,” Palmer said. “This includes housing for people wishing to downsize in North Yarmouth and to have close access to retail services, the community center, sidewalks and where an intergenerational community is nearby – a place where all can share life.”

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