Whichever way Alna’s planning board decides on Jeff Spinney’s proposed dock project, Alna’s lawyer expects a court challenge. After the final two hours of public comment June 18, Amanda Meader polled members on their “brain power and will to live,” and said because their decision will end up in court, she wanted to make sure they were fresh enough to hear from Spinney’s lawyer and maybe start deliberations Meader said would take “really close, careful thinking and talking.”
Meader said she was tired. This work for Alna has had her awake at 2 and 3 in the morning; and before Thursday night’s meeting, she got another “8,000” emails on it, she said.
The board heard Spinney’s and his lawyer Kristin Collins’ rebuttal to public comment and waited on deliberating. Member Jim Amaral said doing it then would be too taxing “to do justice to the job ...”
The board set a 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 23 Zoom session. Meader asked if members would be comfortable meeting at the fire station. “It would be so much easier if I could have my board in the room.” They declined.
Thursday’s Zoom session finished a hearing that started May 29. Opponents again argued the project would break town rules and impact the natural setting they said the rules aim to protect, unless Spinney pares it to something that would be for his family’s and occasional guests’ use. Project opponents reiterated their love for the river, including its peacefulness and wildlife.
“In Alna we have a long tradition of dedication to preserving historical and environmental treasures, and our town ordinances reflect that,” resident and town archivist Doreen Conboy said.
Spinney abutter Jeff Philbrick told board members he would “implore” them to paddle that part of the river with their most cherished loved ones, then decide Spinney’s request.
Spinney said he is considering foregoing four upland posts and considering limiting use of his shoreland, to 10 Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club members. Opponents have raised concerns the club and the site’s use would grow.
Resident Tim Richards supported the proposal. “This project is totally fine ... We’re making a much bigger deal out of this than it should be, and could be.” He said when he sought residents’ signatures to add to a letter, “I thought we might get 20. We got over 100.”
Meader said she would accept no more emails after midnight that night. Collins objected. She said anything received after the meeting should be paid no attention. “Fair enough,” Meader said. “And I’m sure I’ll just get a whole bunch of emails on that, too.” She told attendees, “Be safe, be well, I’d say be kind. Well, try to be kind.”
In an email earlier Thursday to some of the public comment filers, Second Selectman Doug Baston wrote in part: “I understand the passions on both sides of this, but it really doesn’t matter how many supporters or opponents there are. The job of the planning board is a judicial one. They are to ignore the outside noise and apply the language of the ordinance to the facts at hand. It matters not whether they or anyone else likes the outcome. Knowing them as I do, I am fully confident that they have the character, intelligence, and good sense to do the job we appointed them to do.”