Media Archive

Appeal of Sebec marina goes to Superior Court

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 1, January 01, 2003

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

SEBEC The owner of Sebec Village Shops and Cafe has filed an appeal in Piscataquis County Superior Court of the town's actions in allowing William and Charlene Moriarty to operate a marina in the village.

E. Forbes Smiley III, who lives in Martha's Vineyard and summers in Sebec, filed a complaint Dec. 18 through his attorney, Gregory Cunningham. The complaint states that Smiley, as owner of property abutting the marina on the Sebec Village Road and a home across from the property on Sebec Lake, states the planning board, appeals board and board of selectmen acted illegally in allowing the Moriartys to operate their business.

The complaint takes issue with the planning board's Sept. 24 meeting to consider a modification to the Moriartys July 9, 2002, permit for a take-out restaurant, ice cream shop and an outdoor deck addition to one of the buildings at 668 Sebec Village Road. It states that the meeting was held within hours from receipt of the Moriartys request, without adequate public notice.

It also states that the board of appeals in denying Smiley's appeal of the planning board's Sept. 24 permit to the Moriartys, staying the board's decision "is arbitrary, contrary to law ad not supported by evidence in the record."

Lastly, the complaint targets the board of selectmen's Dec. 2 signing of a consent agreement with the Moriartys, allowing the couple to operate its marina. The complaint states the select board "exceeded its authority and... acted in violation of the town's ordinance in granting this permission and in entering into the consent agreement."

Sebec Code Enforcement Officer Bill Murphy placed a stop work order on the marina business owned by the Moriartys last June, alleging non-compliance with the permit issued by the planning board on April 24, 2001. The sticking point, said Murphy, was that the permit did not include the word marina. After a month of negotiations between the town and the Moriartys and both parties' attorneys a consent agreement was signed Monday night.

The consent agreement acknowledges that "the express language of [the permit granted the Moriartys] is ambiguous when viewed in light of the circumstances surrounding the planning board's approval thereof." It further states that the ambiguity of the permit raises "significant questions regarding the permitted use and scope of uses permitted."

Two weeks ago. Smiley's attorney, Cunningham, made a freedom of information request to the town, requesting documents relating to the appointment of all associate/alternate appeals board members, a copy of an Oct. 7 letter from Code Enforcement Officer Bill Murphy regarding investigations at Sebec Village Shops and any and all documents relating to the consent agreement that the town entered into Dec. 2 with the Moriartys, allowing them to operate their marina in the village.

Selectmen complied with that request, although admitted reservations, as the town continues to wait for documents outlining changes to the construction plans on Smiley's property. The planning board has submitted a complaint that Smiley has violated the shoreland zoning laws regarding lot coverage.

Cunningham, two weeks ago, said, "Obviously we're looking into various past actions of the board... trying to determine if this was undertaken legally." He would not comment on any possible lawsuit against the town.

Cunningham also said that the town's recent inquest into Smiley's property appears to be as a result of his allegations against the Moriartys. "I'm perplexed," he said. "The response [to Smiley's appeal] is to have our property investigated and put under the microscope. I think it's a unique way of handling local land use issues."

On Monday, Charlene Moriarty said that she is forwarding the complaint to her attorney, Ed Bearor of Bangor. She said that the issue continues to hurt not only her family, but the whole town. And she added that there are inaccuracies and untruths in the complaint, such as the statement that the planning board considered the Moriartys permit modification within hours and without proper notice to the public.

"I could go through this complaint and pick it apart," she said, "but I don't think this is the right forum.... I look forward to my day in court and hopefully we'll have a sensible judge."

Selectman Small on Monday said that he also took issue with the complaint's insistence that the planning board took action without proper notice. He said the meeting was a regularly scheduled planning board meeting. He said that he did not feel the select board exceeded its authority in authorizing the consent agreement with the Moriartys, as the board did so on the advice of the town attorney, David Gray of Dover-Foxcroft, and attorneys from Maine Municipal Association.

He said the complaint will now be forwarded to the town's attorney for review, and that the town will wait for a brief to be filed by Smiley regarding the appeal.

While the appeal of the board of appeals' decision was not a surprise, Small said, Smiley's inclusion of the inhabitants of the town of Sebec in the complaint was unexpected.

Susan Dow, selectman, added that she is glad the issue will go to the court, because then the issue may be resolved for good and to everybody's satisfaction.

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