Recap: Friends of Lamoine signed a complaint to our Code Enforcement Officer in October of 2014 about the fact that the Gott Garage Project lacked a Gravel Permit. The CEO sent a reply in November stating that he intended to not act on our complaint. On December 11, FOL filed the papers to appeal this decision to the Board of Appeals. After one cancelled meeting and one rambling meeting in which nothing was decided, we had our case considered on March 25, 2015.
In a nutshell, Board of Appeals member Jim Crotteau, who was absent for the previous meeting and who is a lawyer, expressed his opinion that the FOL appeal could not be heard because the Board of Appeals had no jurisdiction to do so. By his interpretation, actions of the Code Enforcement Officer could be heard, but inaction could not. Our only recourse according to Jim Crotteau, is the Maine Superior Court. The Board voted unanimously to find that FOL’s complaint did not meet the jurisdiction requirement.
FOL member Valerie Sprague, who lives within earshot of the project, pointed out that the Board of Appeals bent the rules* when they overturned the Planning Board’s denial of the project’s Site Plan Review Permit application, but now they were choosing to hold to the letter of the law.
With the first of the Board’s eight requirements to hear our case not met, it was decided that the meeting should adjourn.
Before the meeting broke up, FOL member Catherine de Tuede spoke up with a final question, “What happens if they don’t build it?” In other words, what happens if it becomes clear that the project was only a ruse to remove a substantial quantity of gravel after the application for a pit was rejected in 2011. Member Jim Crotteau, pointing at the Gott attorney, said that if this happens he would never believe another word from Gott or the attorney, and ended with, “Don’t look for me to be supportive of anything that you offer”.
Friends of Lamoine feels that the June, 2014 overturning of the Planning Board’s rejection of the Gott Garage project by the Board of Appeals was badly informed and poorly executed. After having just sponsored the No New Pits Ordinance, we believed our town government would follow the law, and we were blindsided. By the time we realized it, the time had passed to appeal either the Board of Appeals’ decision or the Planning Board’s subsequent requirement to grant Gott a Building and Site Plan Review permit. FOL therefore decided the most effective action was to raise the issue that this building permit also needs a gravel permit. Although our appeal was not accepted, we hope that by initiating this complaint we have served notice to Lamoine Town government that their attempt to find the middle ground in its negotiations with the gravel industry now has to include FOL, our many sympathizers and contributors.
The following is a summary of why this project needs a gravel permit and represents what we would have stated if we had been allowed a hearing:
- The amount of gravel proposed to be excavated exceeds by a factor of 140, the 500 cubic yard limit beyond which a gravel permit is required.
- A gravel permit assures time of day and days of week limits to excavation activities.
- The siting of a gravel extraction operation of this magnitude in this residential neighborhood was rejected in the gravel permit denial by the Lamoine Planning Board on Jan 5, 2011. This denial was appealed but upheld by the Hancock County Superior Court in a ruling on Dec 5, 2012.
- No provision is included for restoration of the land should the building project be abandoned; no escrow fund or performance bond exists.
- No water level or quality monitoring wells are proposed for this extraction operation.
*the Board of Appeals paid a site visit to see whether the lowering of the building, and the attendant removal of 70,000 cubic yards of gravel would result in a more acceptable view from adjoining residential properties. This site visit represented a de novo rather than administrative action and was spontaneous and not publicly announced. This prevented the opportunity for public attendance, as is the usual practice. Additionally, several of the Appeal’s Board’s “findings of fact” are, according to the Planning Board, mere opinions.