John Holt Speaks Out Against Consent Agreements

At the June 26 selectboard meeting, John Holt, Chairman of the Lamoine Planning Board addressed the board with a written statement.

This transcription of John Holt’s paper, was taken from the video over cable TV.  It is followed by town attorney Dan Pillegi’s response, also taken from the video.

The conditions about which you have created the consent agreements are conditions which are required by the gravel ordinance and are conditions with which the applicants in question agreed to comply in order that they can receive gravel permits from the Planning Board. The applicants had at first refused to provide the required data and stated that they would not do so. The Planning Board thus found their applications to be incomplete. The applicants then changed their minds and agreed to comply with the requirements but asked for additional time and that they were now starting late and their then-current permits were due to expire. The Planning Board subsequently granted permits to the applicants with the agreed upon understanding that the missing data would be provided by May 1st [2014], a period of several months. As we know, the applicants failed to provide the data and apparently made no effort to comply, refusing even to supply data easily obtained from existing wells.

Incidentally, and parenthetically I think, it was made clear to the applicants at the time and is reflected on the record that failure to comply with the conditions would mean that the permits would be null and void as of May 1st. From the point of view of me anyway, Chair of the Planning Board, the applicants have been operating without permits since May 1st. The Code Enforcement Officer sent notices of violation to the operators seeking their compliance within 30 days, a period which has long expired, has delayed sending stop work orders because of the possible Selectmen action regarding consent agreements which has apparently been taken this evening.

textboxI think that the Selectmen have no business becoming involved in the matter at this point in the process. This is a matter of administration of the provisions of the ordinance. If the operators disagreed with the actions of the Code Enforcement Officer in sending notices of violations, their recourse in the ordinance is to appeal to the Appeals Board. You are attempting to unilaterally amend the provisions of the Gravel Ordinance with respect to what is required to obtain and to maintain a permit. That is neither your task nor is it your right. It is the duty and authority of the Planning Board. For you to intervene where not appropriate I believe is a threat to the good government of this town. Thank you.

 Board member Jo Cooper asked for town attorney Dan Pillegi’s response. His response was “off the cuff” and therefore not as coherent as a written statement:

Holt2Having carefully looked at the ordinance, all of the ordinances of the town, the enforcement authority of the town related to land use including the gravel pits, rests with the Code Enforcement Officer and the Selectboard. The Planning Board does not have enforcement authority. It is the Selectboard’s and the Code Enforcements Officer’s responsibility to bring properties into compliance according to ordinance provisions. Consent agreements are recognized in the State of Maine and throughout the country as a means of negotiating a resolution that…with the goal, with the ultimate goal of bringing properties to compliance with ordinance provisions. It is a way to effectively or efficiently use town resources to accomplish the goals that the voters of the town have established as the rules. I understand that there has been a task force, we all know there has been a task force or Gravel Work Group that has been in place, that has done some work that may or may not result in changes to the ordinance. It is within the purview of the Selectboard to make a decision to essentially delay enforcement or delay litigation pending the results of the task force making changes or lack of changes in the land use ordinance or the gravel. Ultimately, a consent agreement isn’t legal unless it calls for compliance. Within a certain amount of time, these consent agreements do that. They require the applicants—the landowners–to be in compliance with all applicable ordinances by the deadline that is in the consent agreement which is…What is the deadline?…[no later than May 1, 2015 or within six months of any Town vote on ordinance changes].


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