Media Archive

Business, town work to resolve permit violations

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 14, April 02, 2003

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

SEBEC A consent agreement may be on the horizon for the town and the owner of Sebec Village Shops and Cafe, related to violations of the shoreland zoning ordinance.

In a special meeting March 24, the board of selectmen met with Greg Cunningham, attorney for E. Forbes Smiley III of Sebec and Martha's Vineyard, to review violations on the property cited by Code Enforcement Officer Bill Murphy.

A follow-up meeting is set for Tuesday, April 7, at 7 p.m. in the Harland Ladd School.

Sebec Village Shops is alleged to have violated the shoreland zoning ordinance's allowance for unvegetated lot coverage, as well as building beyond the scope of its permit issued by the town.

Murphy discovered the violations, after a complaint was filed with selectmen by planning board members Walter Emmons and Mary Downs last fall.

Chairman Buzz Small outlined rules for the meeting, explaining that the public - approximately 15 residents - was welcome to listen, and speak if they submitted their name before the meeting began.

"If you have additional information that hasn't been brought up before, the board will allow your input," Small said. "We want to keep the focus and come up with a game plan from here."

Murphy explained that an updated sketch plan for the development had been provided, but there still was a need for an amended permit application to go before the planning board. He said that the lot, already nonconforming, had been developed beyond the grandfathered amount.

That grandfathered amount remains yet to be decided, but photos of the property prior to the development show areas of grassy vegetation where there is now a wraparound porch, driveway and parking lot.

Cunningham, in his first appearance before the board, said that "I want to start by saying, the Sebec Village Shops project was undertaken to rejuvenate a building and help make a small business district ... [Smiley] did not mean to break any laws of the town."

He said that there had been a "general understanding" that the plans submitted by the engineering firm to the planning board marked a footprint, accepted by the planning board, and that minor deviations were acceptable.

He added that there was some confusion about the lot size initially, as the lot was purchased in the winter time and the survey was not clear.

"At the end of the day, there is no dispute, the plot plan is inaccurate," Cunningham said.

He provided some photos of the property, dating as far back as 1978, which show a driveway and a bam on the property, arguing that the grandfathered amount should include both.

He said that the photos provided that show grass actually were primarily gravel, with grass that had grown up "patchy."

There also was some discussion about some accessory structures that existed on the property when Smiley
bought it Oct. 11, 2001. The structures included a goat shed, which was on wheels, and a chicken coop and a tarped-in structure to protect a boat. Former owner Pat McGuire of Bowerbank said that grass did grow underneath each structure and that they were temporary.

Cunningham submitted a revised plan based on the photos provided, counting the structures that had been removed as unvegetated. He estimated the parcel was 41.65 percent unvegetated at the time of purchase.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.