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At the June 6, 2016 Lamoine Planning Board meeting Chairman John Holt announced that the construction of Gott’s commercial building had not been started, the permit has expired, and there is no indication that any future construction is planned. Yet, 70,000 cubic yards of gravel have been removed.
The land in question was first the subject of a gravel permit application by Gott in 2010. The permit was rejected by the Planning Board. The decision was upheld by the Lamoine Appeals Board and upon further appeal, the Hancock County Superior Court.
In 2013 Gott applied for new permits on the same parcel. One for a building permit for the commercial building, and one for a site plan review permit, which would call for the removal of 70,000 yards of gravel so the building could be at the same elevation as Gott’s other building on his adjoining gravel yard. In early 2014 the Planning Board decided to approve the building, but not the site plan review permit. This time, the Lamoine Appeals Board did not agree and ordered the Planning Board to approve the permit on June 4, 2014.
In October of 2014 Friends of Lamoine appealed to the Appeals Board over the Gott garage site plan review permit, insisting that our Code Enforcement Officer needed to issue a gravel permit, since our ordinance states that any gravel removal in excess of 500 yards requires one. This appeal was ultimately rejected, but helped to bring attention to the town about this complicated issue. An FOL member asked what would happen if Gott decided not to build. Appeals Board member Jim Crotteau, pointing at the Gott attorney, responded 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”.
At the June 6, 2016 Planning Board meeting members vented their frustration that the building has not been built. The chairman quipped, “an excavation forbidden by the Superior Court has taken place” and again expressed disappointment at the Appeals Board ruling, referring to the overturning of the Planning Board’s decision in June of 2014. He also reasoned that if a building will not be built, it would perhaps be grounds to demand the restoration of the site to the original contours, i.e., return the gravel. This was later recognized as an unlikely outcome since there is no such warning in the issued permit. The Planning Board Chairman concluded that for now, “I think it’s important for people to know what’s transpired, that it’s not being built.”
It was pointed out by member Richard McMullen that many permits are taken out and never completed, and that it is hard to state without doubt that Gott, Inc. had the intention of never completing the project from the start. He pointed out the folly of taking action against every land owner who cleared trees only to change his mind or run out of funds. Chairman Holt agreed but added, “It’s the scope of the thing.”
To anyone who has followed this story from the beginning, it is clear that the goal of Doug Gott and Sons was to get the gravel out of Map 3 Lot 8 in Lamoine. At first they tried the direct approach. When that didn’t work they got creative. They got 70,000 yards out without a gravel permit, without paying the town the $.05/yard fee, without a restoration plan and without a taxable building. Our town needs to fight back against this sort of chicanery and greed. We hope our Board of Appeals has learned its lesson. They compared the value of the gravel removed and the cost of the building and concluded Gott would be lucky to break even. They failed to consider how the numbers would work if no building were built.
I am not signing 2 after-the-fact expansion permits at the 6/8 Hancock Planning Board meeting. A Hancock Select person has placed 36 petition signatures on the same meeting agenda to request his town pay for a traffic study before a new mine application is reviewed any further. How will the PB respond? A town like Hancck with an elected PB has a better chance of protecting itself by strictly interpreting its ordinance. Each town facing mining illegalities needs to respond strongly in creative ways to these challenges. Look at the applications before they are reviewed and point out to the planning boards what submissions are omitted. Check the parties involved for conflicting interests. Keep track of well monitoring reports. We could also strive to elect legislators who will change state laws to help protect our community rights to local self governance.