Spinney completes earthwork; mediation yields planned settlement

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 2:00pm

    Jeff Spinney will lay no mat over the fresh layer of washed stone he applied to his boat ramp on the Sheepscot River, according to Spinney and his proposed deal with Alna. Selectmen have anticipated they will approve the agreement Wednesday night, Jan. 6. In new, separate interviews, Spinney and Second Selectman Doug Baston said they hoped the deal ends months of local upset.

    The town released the proposed settlement Tuesday in an email with selectmen’s 6 p.m. Zoom meeting agenda. The planned deal confines the ramp’s use to Spinney’s “bona fide friends, family and guests” for motor boats and Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club members, for non-motorized boats; the club can have at most 10 members and would be dissolved if Maine Department of Environmental Protection no longer requires the club for the DEP permit.

    Or, if the DEP considers the limits on the club a violation of the DEP’s condition of approval, “the planning board shall replace it with another condition that places reasonable restrictions on use by the club to prevent overburdening of the facilities and undue adverse impacts on the river,” the proposed deal states.

    The planned deal stems from mediation Spinney requested through Lincoln County Superior Court after the town’s appeals board upheld a planning board decision on an earlier proposal. He did the earthwork after the board OK’d the work on the condition Spinney get approval from all the agencies needed.

    Some residents who opposed his prior request also opposed the one that passed. They have voiced concern the mat and other aspects of the project, including possible usage of the site, would impact the river. 

    Wiscasset Newspaper is seeking comment from several of Spinney’s neighbors whose names the proposed agreement lists with places to sign. Cathy Johnson said she has asked repeatedly to be removed from it, will not sign it and considers it an illegal settlement, in part due to Spinney’s having done the work when he did, which, she said in her email reply, “scuttled any chance for settlement.”

    Johnson also continued to argue the project does not meet the town’s shoreland zoning ordinance. “We negotiated in good faith,” Johnson said.

    In a Dec. 30 email Baston forwarded at Wiscasset Newspaper’s request, Spinney’s attorney Kristin Collins stated Spinney has made clear, the work would match the description in the DEP permit. 

    Baston said, to him, a “critical” piece of the agreement selectmen are set to be take up Wednesday night is, the level of use of the river there will not increase. “That to me was the whole conflict in one sentence,” because there were concerns there would be overuse, including with club members using power boats, he said. “There’s no reason for the town not to sign this and move forward.” If other people named in the agreement do not sign, the town would still consider the agreement binding on the town when the board has approved it, Baston said.

    Baston estimated that together, the legal costs the town and Spinney have incurred equal about $10,000 or more for every foot of the ramp’s width, which Spinney put at about 12 feet. “That's more than land in Pemaquid costs,” Baston said.

    Baston said the time and money spent are “infuriating,” given the life-changing hardships some residents are having as he said is evidenced by general assistance requests and pending foreclosures. He hopes now “life will go back to some form of normal and people will get a perspective in their life, focus on something positive.”

    Under the deal, Spinney would forgo a court appeal. “I don’t need to (appeal. The work is) all done,” Spinney said. “I don’t have to sign this agreement. I’m doing it to be conciliatory to some of the concerns.

    “I’d like to just have this be over. This is ridiculous,” Spinney said. “It should have just been approved to begin with.”

    The meeting will be at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84759990979?pwd=RTBta1FYME9QekVTVmV1NjV2Yk8rZz09, passcode 100587