Media Archive

A Problem in Sebec

Article from The Eastern Gazette, Vol. 148, No. 29, July 20, 2002
To the Editor:

There is a problem in Sebec. What used to be a caring, concerned community has turned into an opinionated, bickering feuding lot myself included and I am ashamed.

I'm ashamed that what should have been a simple permit request by a business entrepreneur was allowed to remain "unclear" for over a year because the nature of the business wasn't spelled out on the request.

I'm ashamed that after they provided the requested site plan to the appropriate people someone dropped the ball, leading the owners to believe they were ok to start their business with the permit they had initially obtained.

I'm ashamed that after selling their property in NH, and starting their business here, they were cited by the local CEO for violations because the permit doesn't spell out the nature of the business.

I'm ashamed of myself for not knowing enough about legalities to be sure which "side" has legal foundation, but more so, that I've allowed myself to get emotional about this issue.

I'm angry. No I'm mad. I want to go on record saying I don't want my tax dollars wasted fighting someone else's battle. Those that don't want this business seem to be setting the town up for a legal battle.

According to Richard Baker, State of Maine, DEP, Shoreland Zoning Coordinator, it is his opinion "the ordinance does not prohibit the change of use from commercial storage to marina". It is also his opinion the permit needs to be clarified.

I don't tihnk there is anyone who will dispute that fact!

Were mistakes made on the permit request?...yes.

Did the property owner try to clarify their request with a site plan?... yes.

Did they believe they fulfilled requirements?... yes.

Did the information they provided the planning board chairman make it to a planning board meeting?... no.

Did anyone respond, after the site plan was submitted, that more information or a new permit request was needed?...

Do planning boards make mistakes?... yes.

Do Selectmen make mistakes?... .yes.

There are probably three groups involved in town: those opposed, those who encourage the business, and those who really don't care. I fall into the third category, but what I do care about is my tax dollars, maintaining control over property I own, and fairness to the property owner.

This property and business is on a "Grandfathered" nonconforming lot in the General Development area of Sebec. Their plans for the business are all permitable in this area. This is not a political decision. The decision on the permit must be made objectively and if requirements are met, a permit must be granted no matter how many people in town want it, nor how many don't!

If you want your permit requests to be a political issue, create an ordinance for that. Sebec doesn't have one, and I, for one, don't want more regulations telling me what to do with my property. Do we want every permit under a microscope for review? Put more simply, do you want your neighbor dictating what you can and can't build on your property?

Regardless, this is an issue that needs to be addressed and clarified. Hopefully, we can do this without asking the town to use their tax dollars on a lawsuit based on semantics and formality.

As selectmen, planning and appeals board members, we should be encouraging prospective business in Sebec and help property owners meet ordinance requirements, not read more into the requirements to achieve personal goals. Let's become a community again so I no longer am ashamed.

Susan C. Dow

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