‘Take me out, Coach’: Alna officials urge residents to work out dock issue

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 8:45am

    Alna’s attorney Amanda Meader has seen nothing in her municipal law career like the tension, meetings, letters, information requests and more around Jeff Spinney’s request for a dock project on the Sheepscot River. Second Selectman Doug Baston said, “Maybe it’s just the times we’re in, but it’s disheartening.” 

    It is concern for the river and the town’s rules on business and shoreland protection, according to the residents who question Spinney’s plans.

    The latest comments came on Zoom June 3 as Code Enforcement Officer Tom McKenzie reported finding Spinney had done none of the shoreline violations McKenzie said residents raised. And Meader said she doesn’t see Spinney’s Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club as a business, as residents have maintained in arguing it needs a business permit. But she said she wants to dig into case law and leave no stone unturned, lest she be accused of bias.

    Baston said he will base his vote on Meader’s recommendation. The board  took no action. Third Selectman Greg Shute said he was not ready. First Selectman Melissa Spinney, Spinney’s wife, was not in the meeting and has recused herself on the issue.

    Resident Ed Pentaleri appreciated officials’ following up on his letter to McKenzie, but he questioned their thoroughness on camping and parking questions. “You spent a lot of time being mystified about what this was all about.”

    Meader responded she spent her 15th anniversary at the site visit. “I’m pretty sure I wasn’t overly mystified, and I think it was productive.”

    Pentaleri said in a text comment June 4, he remained concerned for the river and the community over what he viewed as the town not being inclined to enforce its shoreline zoning.

    In the June 3 meeting, Spinney’s lawyer Kristin Collins said the group of residents has taken an “extremely aggressive posture ... Jeff is not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. He’s just trying to get his dock in and his ramp.” Collins said she would like to talk with the residents or a representative “and try to work some of these things out so we can stop involving the town in every step of this.”

    “Oh, I’d love that. Take me out, Coach,” Meader said. “I’ve never seen anything play out like this” in any town, and she’s seen things get tense in some towns, she said. “But this is too bad, how this is working out. It really is, guys.” 

    Baston asked for townspeople to work together like they did on the Head Tide Dam project, starting from different stances but reaching a plan people were happy with. Instead, this issue’s sense of someone having to lose and someone having to win is impacting the planning board, town staff and taxpayers, he said. 

    Resident Carol Gardner said those concerned about the proposal have not dug in their heels. They are very willing to talk and to compromise, and have offered to, she said.

    Residents reiterated their concerns for the river. Dale DesMueles told the meeting, when she saw a photo Spinney took of the area, “I thought, ‘Wow, this is such a jewel. Why upset this area’ ... We live along this river and we are stewards of this river. So we’re not taking this lightly.”

    Baston asked Jeff Philbrick to get on a planning board agenda for a business permit for Philbrick Family Band. Shute asked anyone else in the shoreland zone who needs one to get one. Philbrick said he has nothing to hide, and will apply. Mark DesMueles said Baston’s bringing it up – amid the Spinney project talks Philbrick, a Spinney abutter, has been part of – looked punitive. Baston said Philbrick’s business was brought to his attention and he brought it up informally, to avoid possibly enjoining the band from operating.

    A planning board public hearing on Spinney’s proposal began May 29. The hearing resumes at 6 p.m. June 11.

    Asked via text after the June 3 selectmen’s meeting, was he feeling better, worse, or about the same on the whole matter, Spinney said: “Cautiously optimistic.” 

    Also June 3, selectmen opened what they believed may have been a record five snowplowing bids, from Goodall Landscaping of Topsham, Gordon A. Libby Forest Products of Waldoboro, McClintick Foundations of Nobleboro, Jeff Davis of Woolwich and the current contractor, Hagar Enterprises of Damariscotta. The board did not give bids’ details. Selectmen planned to pick finalists and have each make their best and final offer; releasing the first bids would mean the finalists would know them, Baston said.

    Monday, June 8, the town announced a special selectmen’s meeting June 10 to award the plowing contract, act on Meader’s definition of a business under the town’s building code and call a referendum for more money for attorney fees.