Shoreland issue resurfaces in Alna

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 8:45am

An issue Jeff Spinney and Alna selectmen resolved over his shoreland earthwork project re-emerged Sept. 15. The new board concluded Spinney’s project violates zoning. Selectmen authorized the town’s law firm Drummond and Woodsum to start enforcement “up to and including in Superior Court, against the ordinance violations resulting from construction under a planning board permit that was subsequently reversed by the Alna board of appeals.”

“This is first I’ve heard of it, no other communication to me on this before you tonight,” Spinney told Wiscasset Newspaper in a text response to a request for comment after the meeting, held on Zoom and at the town office. “I have already settled in Superior Court comprehensively, at the town’s insistence then that it be comprehensive,” he recalled of the deal then-selectmen Doug Baston and Greg Shute agreed to earlier this year.

Neither incumbent ran to keep his seat last March. Shortly after elections, First Selectman Melissa Spinney resigned and has not been replaced. Alna elected Linda Kristan second selectman and Charles Culbertson third selectman. In the Sept. 15 meeting at the town office and on Zoom, Culbertson said enforcement was selectmen’s only option.

Spinney sees it differently. “This seems to be simply a reaction to pressure from a certain few constituents cashing in political favors since they got this board elected. This is nothing more than an apparent personal vendetta at the taxpayers’ expense,” Spinney said.

The six months the new select board has taken to move on the matter shows the board did not rush to judgment, Culbertson said in the meeting. He called the matter “a pretty contentious ... complicated (and) tough issue (that) has sort of pitted people against each other and really kind of divided the town.” He said the board inherited it when, days after the election, the town’s board of appeals reversed the planning board’s decision.

Since then, he has heard from townspeople who said to let Spinney’s project be, because it is done, and from ones who say it breaks the shoreland rules and the board should act on the appeals board’s decision. After an executive session with town counsel weeks ago, he and Kristan have, separately, kept studying, he said.

“I feel that Mr. Spinney has no valid local permit for his boat launch following the board of appeals decision,” Culbertson said. “Since Mr. Spinney failed to appeal the board of appeals decision, that decision is final. The (ordinance) leaves the town with no choice but enforcement.”

Some attendees agreed. They expressed concern about a precedent and argued a reversal of the planning board decision voided the deal with Spinney.

Others disagreed. Noting the deal, resident Mike Trask said the town is going back on its word.

Baston said he lived the matter for two years and saw what the issue did to the town. He asked the board to “put some kind of end to it, that doesn’t sanction it, but allows the town to move on ... It’s tearing us apart and it has to stop.”

“It does, but we inherited this and we must deal with it, and so we shall,” Kristan said. 

Code Enforcement Officer Tom McKenzie noted the town has the agreement the last board signed with Spinney. He asked, if the town asks Spinney to remove his project, does the board have a cap on how much tax money it is willing to pay lawyers, and “why doesn’t the same decision on enforcement apply” to the Head Tide Dam issue.

Maine Department of Environmental Protection found the dam site’s makeover included a granite bench and a beach, neither permitted, according to DEP’s letter to the town last March. The bench was being removed and DEP said to not maintain the beach.

Responding to McKenzie, Culbertson and Kristan called the dam matter a closed issue. They did not state a cap on legal costs to enforce the Spinney matter.

Later in the meeting, selectmen said the matter may or may not go to court. The first step will likely be town counsel speaking with Spinney’s lawyer, Culbertson said.

Also Sept. 15, Trask, the fire chief, asked the board to let Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway Museum dig under Cross Road to connect the town’s hydrant to one he said the museum would put in at its expense. Kristan said the town is checking into it. Resident Les Fossel supported the hydrant idea. He said the nonprofit museum has some of the most valuable buildings in town and is museum founder Harry Percival Jr.’s crown jewel.

The board named Calderwood Engineering of Richmond to engineer and inspect work at the Egypt Road bridge for $25,056.