Media Archive

Land use issues continue to spark debate in Sebec

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 164, No. 32, August 07, 2002

By Sarah MacIlroy
Staff Writer

SEBEC What started out as a relatively simple permit process has sparked debate that's on its way to spanning two summers in Sebec.

At a selectman's meeting Monday night, confusion over the permit process surfaced again, with permits sought by William and Charlene Moriarty as a major topic of discussion.

"The marina action was taken out of step," First Selectman Tom Walters told residents at the meeting. "The position that the selectmen took on the (take-out restaurant) permit issued to the Moriartys was a continued commercial use of that property."

The debate over permits hasn't evaded many public meetings lately. At a planning board meeting last month when the Moriartys were applying for the permit to operate a take-out restaurant and ice cream shop, debate on the topic lasted over two hours, resurrecting issues that first appeared in April of 2001 when the couple was in the process of relocating to the area. '

According to Charlene Moriarty, their intentions were made clear when they first started the process of operating a "marina-type facility with a small sales store and boat accessories store" on Sebec Lake.

Frustrations ran high from both sides of the issue at the July meeting when citizens, selectmen and a Portland lawyer representing one of the town's residents all expressed differing views about last year's permit process.

Regardless of how much debate happens, confusion about what business the Moriarty's have permission to operate doesn't seem close to ending.

"A permit for a marina was not issued," said Selectmen Glen Fariel. "There are numerous things that have caused the confusion."

Planning board members who are responsible for issuing the permits would disagree.

"I feel our job as the planning board is to help people do what they want to do," said Planning Board Member Buddy Baird, who believes permission to operate a marina was granted. "There was an appeal process, and they (those opposing the marina) did nothing."

Baird said he believes the issue has developed into a case of personal issues that might not be resolved without legal intervention.

"I can see this case ending up in a court of law," he said.

Public records would seem to indicate that codes have been met and a permit approved in 2001 when the Moriartys asked permission to change from one commercial use to another. The planning board granted that permit adding the condition that the Sebec Village location "stay as it is, dry storage to sell."

After supplying additional information to the town's code enforcement officer and following what the state said were their guidelines, Charlene Moriarty feels she had done what is required for a permit.

"I think the letter I wrote to Mr. Murphy (the Code Enforcement Officer) caused some confusion because not all the people read it," she said. "But I think the issue with the (marina) permit is dead because the time for appeals is long past... I believe I acted in good faith and did everything I was asked to do and provided information when I was asked."

Sebec's code enforcement officer has a differing view. He said that according to the documents he's seen, it doesn't appear that a marina permit was ever issued.

"I've seen the permit that was issued to them. I've seen the minutes of the meeting when they were issued that permit, and I've seen a subsequent letter from the planning board to the owners. None of these documents indicate that a marina permit has been issued," Bill Murphy said.

In a May 2001 letter from the planning board to the Moriartys, Chairman Missy Small explained that, at the request of the selectmen, the board needed to make the couple aware of the conditions of their permit. If more information was required, she said the board would be in contact with the couple.

"The permit from non-conforming commercial to non-conforming commercial pertains only to the use of the buildings, not to include an exterior marina," Small stated in her letter. "The planning board is investigating further the proper procedures for issuing a permit for a marina."

The issue took another twist at the last selectmen's meeting when it was announced that the state Department of Environmental Protection would be filing an appeal of the most recent permit issued to the Moriartys.

"DEP isn't planning to appeal whatever was issued (originally)," said State Shoreland Zoning Coordinator Rich Baker. "We are proposing to appeal the most recent (planning board decision).... Our main concern is lot coverage."

Baker also explained that the department has concerns about wastewater disposal on the Sebec Village property as well.

While both sides continue to make their case known, no resolution appears to be forthcoming, and the details of the original permit remain unclear.

Last year, David E. Gray, representing the town with the law firm C.W. and H.M. Hayes replied to inquiries by saying, he too, thought the permit issued wasn't completely clear.

"The permit is extremely vague in its scope," he wrote, "and could be interpreted in any number of different ways."

Interpretation of the law at times seems to have taken a backseat, and current Selectwoman Susan Dow feels the confusion has gone on too long and needs to be taken care of.

"We've wasted a lot of time on this and it's caused a lot of hard feelings in town. We just need to put it behind us," she said. "These people are on hold and that needs to be resolved."

As result of the issues caused, the town could be seeing some clarification of what requirements are for obtaining a permit. Code Enforcement Officer Murphy will be asked to attend a selectmen's meeting after the Aug. 12 town meeting to address code enforcement issues.

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