Dock talks: Alna panel deliberates

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 8:45am

Alna planning board members said June 23, they want to protect the Sheepscot River and that voters did also when they passed the town’s shoreland zoning in 1993. Part of what members are still sorting out is, does the river need protecting from Jeff Spinney’s proposed dock and ramp project and, if so,  could it be approved with conditions that protect the river.

Three and a half hours on the proposal that night were the board’s first hours deliberating on it. The board finished taking public comment June 18. During Tuesday’s Zoom session, member Jim Amaral announced some viewers were sending him messages. He said he was not sure that was appropriate; he and town attorney Amanda Meader told viewers not to.

Later in the session, Amaral said he was stunned and dismayed at Spinney’s take on the board’s talks. Spinney said the board was evaluating a “myriad of things” when the only thing to discuss involving the shoreland zoning is the landing area, since he already has a dock permit and “that dock is going in.” Amaral and Meader said the board was following its process for dealing with an application. 

Talks resume Monday at 6 p.m. on Zoom.

The board mulled if the ramp on-site is a structure; if it pre-dates the shoreland zoning ordinance and, if so, did its use ever lapse after the town adopted the ordinance. It also talked possible conditions on approval including narrowing the dock two feet and limiting use to prevent an impact on the river from Spinney’s Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club; enforcement of any conditions set; and board member Laurie Hiestand said the ordinance might need amending to address boat launches: “It’s obvious that we don’t have the right language to guide us.”

Participants noted, for the application before them, they needed to work with the ordinance as-is.

Amaral said the club could have very little or a very large impact on the river. He spoke of a need to protect the river as he said residents wanted to, when they made the ordinance. He described seeing eagles and osprey on a recent kayaking trip from Sheepscot to Bass Falls. He called the river “a remarkable resource the town needs to protect ... I think we really need to carefully consider the impacts of Jeff’s project on the river.”

“Jeff is protecting it from erosion in that area, from washing away,” member Taylor Mcgraw responded.

Member Tom Albee said the state limits crafts’ speed on the Sheepscot. “There’s a safeguard right there.” And he told Amaral, “It’s kind of harsh in a way to just deprive people access to the river. You’re going to be declining every application that ever comes up ... going into the future, from what I’m hearing from you.” 

“That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m looking at is the sporting club,” Amaral said. He doubted people would object if Spinney was just repairing or replacing the dock for his personal use.

In a phone interview later, Spinney said there was “nothing encouraging” about the meeting. He reiterated he felt the board discussed things outside its scope.

Two of the proposal’s opponents, Ed Pentaleri and Cathy Johnson, said the board was going though the ordinance, including the parts residents have cited, and it is important for the board to keep doing that. “I really appreciated the clear effort (board) members ... demonstrated toward working fairly and systematically through the issues. As long as they require the applicant to satisfy the burden of proof to demonstrate compliance with the ordinances, I think we’ll have a good outcome,” Pentaleri said.