Alna rejects resident’s appeal; proposed ramp work court-bound

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 7:45am

    An Alna man said he plans a court appeal after a Friday night decision by the town’s appeals board. Jeff Spinney has sought to do ramp work along the Sheepscot River off Golden Ridge Road.

    The planning board split 2-2, twice; and Oct. 16 via Zoom, appeals board members Alex Pugh and David Buczkowski upheld the planning board’s decision. Mary Bowers dissented.

    “I think this project is conserving a point of access to the river,” as the shoreland zoning calls for, Bowers said. Buczkowski said the planning board members who rejected the proposal, Laurie Hiestand and Jim Amaral, had sound evidence to base their votes on. “I think that’s the criteria we have to use.”

    Spinney’s lawyer Kristin Collins argued, the planning board might have gone “overboard” a little in scrutinizing the proposal, compared to the panel’s handling of other projects over the decades. Describing a “a rabbit hole of logic,” Collins argued the planning board wrongly focused on the ramp’s past use, with some members finding the ramp was not grandfathered from the town’s shoreland zoning.

    “There was absolutely a clear path to approval here that just wasn’t followed,” she said. Collins said the project involves erosion control, and amounts to maintenance of a road that runs all the way down to the river.

    Project opponents’ lawyers, including Patrick Lyons representing abutter Jeff Philbrick, argued the issue for the appeals board was not if it, too, would have rejected the permit request; the issue was whether or not the planning board had “competent evidence” the ramp was not grandfathered, Lyons said.

    Abutter Carol Ervin’s lawyer Gordon Smith argued Spinney did not meet his burden to show the ramp was grandfathered.

    Spinney confirmed via text, he plans a court appeal. He deferred all other comment to Collins. In email responses Saturday to Wiscasset Newspaper, Collins wrote in part: “Last night’s result was disappointing. The (appeals board) did not consider ... our very strong arguments that the Planning Board should have allowed the project under other provisions of the ordinance ... It’s unfortunate that Mr. Spinney has had to go through all of this to get the right result, and that these boards have had to make their decisions in the absence of legal counsel.”

    Collins expects a Superior Court justice to decide the appeal on briefs.