13 October 2015
Planning Board Minutes
Members present: Robert Jones, Victor Smith, Peter Neill, David Carter, Michael Rossney, Peter Atherton and Patricia Egan.
The minutes for September 8th were read and approved. Robert Jones noted that there was a quorum and asked if there was any new business to discuss. None was brought up.
Old Business: Several residents from Rope Ferry Road were present and the subject of the Strong Brewery was reintroduced. Richard Kane made the point that, regarding the issue of the Strong’s septic system, the State Department of Environmental Protection has jurisdiction. He read the pertinent sections from the Maine Revised Statutes: Title 38, Chapter 3, Subchapter 1, Article 2, particularly 1-A and 1-B.
Mr. Carey said it was clear that the Sedgwick Select Board was the enforcer in this case, and that it had been dragging its heels for two months. Because the residents had seen no action from the town, Mr. Carey has made contact with the State Attorney General’s office.
Robert Comerford reminded everyone that two months ago the Planning Board had asked the Strongs to submit a site plan. To date it has not been submitted.
Patricia Egan asked whether the issue at hand was what redress was available to the residents. Robert Jones said that the Planning Board has no enforcement power and can only request that the Select Board act. Such requests have been made and Nelson Grindal acknowledged that the requests had been moved and voted on by the Select Board without passing.
Peter Neill stated that the Planning Board had made requests that the Strongs appear before it and provide all the necessary documentation but that they have refused to comply.
There was general agreement that the issue now was the Select Board’s inaction. Mr. Jones said that he doesn’t know why the Selectmen aren’t acting. They say their hands are tied. They have suggested crafting an entertainment ordinance and Nelson Grindal said that he is working on that, using ordinances from Ellsworth and Stonington.
Peter Neill asked whether those ordinances addressed the health issues under discussion. Apparently not.
Michael Rossney offered information from El El Frijoles’ experience of inspections and said that if the Strongs had a valid license their well had to be inspected yearly and the results would be available.
Robert Jones said that any inspection or action had to be directed by the Select Board. David Carter said that this seemed to be a State Agency problem with different agencies having different jurisdictions and failing to communicate.
Richard Kane brought up the site plan ordinance and the fact that the Strongs were not in compliance.
Peter Neill said that the Plumbing Inspector had approved the septic system for a three-bedroom house and a certain number of gallons of water. The Strongs have exceeded the amount of water and the terms of the approved site plan. He reiterated efforts made by the Planning Board to have the Strongs come to a meeting without success although the Strongs did attend a Select Board meeting. He also reminded everyone that, at the first Planning Board meeting to discuss these issues, the Planning Board had advised the Strongs to get the necessary permits and to communicate with their neighbors. The Selectmen must insist that the Plumbing Inspector assess the situation.
After some discussion it became clear that the Plumbing Inspector was reluctant to act in this matter. It was suggested that the Town is afraid of being sued because of previous inaction by the Select Board.
David Carter said that this is not a Planning Board issue. Peter Neill added that this was not the first time that individuals had exceeded their certification and that the town had been required to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Robert Jones asked Nelson Grindal if he could add his perspective to the discussion. Why hasn’t anything been done? Motions are made but go nowhere. We’re told we must wait for the attorney’s opinion but none is presented.
Peter Neill asked whether motions were recorded and Nelson said they were.
Robert Jones, addressing the residents said that the Planning Board empathized with their position but had no authority to Act. Nelson said that the Select Board had the authority to issue a work stoppage.
Mr Comerford made the point that it wasn’t out of the goodness of their hearts that the Strongs stopped their entertainment activities but because they were in violation of the law and that the parking issue had been resolved simply by the cession of entertainment.
The question was raised as to whether there was a conflict of interest; whether anyone in town government was or had been an employee of the Strongs or owned a share in the business as there had been some rumors to that effect.
Peter Neill brought up the Comprehensive Plan and the idea of having an area in town where entrepreneurs could have businesses like the Strong Brewery that would not impinge on residents. This way we could encourage such economic activity without creating situations like the one in which we find ourselves.
Peter Atherton gave a brief history of the Comprehensive Plan and the influence of the Natural Resources Council and the Hancock County Planning Commission.
Nelson suggested that when permits were issued that there be an explanation of what they mean and what their limits are.
Michael Rossney commented that we should be using words such as “alleged” and “perhaps” as we have no idea exactly what or how much affluent, excessive or otherwise, is being introduced into the Strongs’ septic system. Also, he commented on whether or not the Strongs can or should be compelled to allow the Town access to inspect their already-permitted system.
It was agreed that we needed to get the results from the Strongs’ yearly well tests.
Mike Rossney repeated a previous request that individual email addresses be issued to Planning Board members. He will write to the Select Board for these addresses.
The meeting was adjourned until Tuesday, November 10th.
Patricia Colling Egan