Board of Appeals votes ‘no’ to reconsider Eastside Waterfront Park decision

Fri, 04/28/2023 - 2:00pm

    The Boothbay Harbor Board of Appeals on April 27 denied a request for reconsideration of its previous decision on property at 65 Atlantic Ave. The denial effectively halts progress on Boothbay Harbor Waterfront Preservation’s construction of Eastside Waterfront Park there.

    “Obviously, we’re very saddened and frustrated by the decision,” said BHWP President John O'Connell. “Despite all the time we’ve spent on this we are not where we need to be. My own view is that the system has failed us. This is not a proud moment for the town.”

    This move is the latest of a years-long conflict between park abutters Joseph and Jill Doyle and BHWP. As previously reported in the Register, the BOA granted an appeal from the Doyles on March 30 that challenged previous planning board decisions related to a parking area and shoreline zoning rules.

    BHWP requested a reconsideration of the appeal for the April 27 meeting. However, the BOA failed to pass Question 1: “Does the Board accept the request for consideration?” BOA member Lawrence Rebel voted yes and Rosemary Bourette and Chairman Wendy Wolf voted no. Two board members did not vote because they were not part of the original decision.

    The vote came after a summary of positions from both sides, encouraged by Wolf.

    “I do not think there have been any errors in the Board of Appeals’ decision making and judgement and review,”  Wolfe said. “(I would like to do) this frankly as a step towards transparency and also to make sure that all the elements about this very complicated and long decision-making process have been aired.” 

    Attorney Joseph Siviski, representing BHWP, said that since the conflict has arisen from four problematic parking spaces, the whole park should not be denied. He suggested the BOA remand back to the planning board to figure out parking spaces or modify the board of appeals decision to apply only to the park, not the previously existing marina where the parking spaces are.

    “Given the narrow basis on which the (March 30) appeal was granted, vacating the entire premise seemed like a rather Draconian response,” he said.

    Kristin Collins, representing the Doyles, said the board should not reconsider because the park and board have made no error and the parking in question was nonconforming to begin with. She said the park was presented as an integrated project, including stormwater and erosion elements in question.

    “When a board looks at a whole project, they are looking at the sum of its parts and the impact that whole project has,” she said.

    Collins added, the decisions regarded the project, including the parking lot, and one element cannot be pulled out now.

    The BOA also questioned its authority to take a partial approach to a decision and requested advice from town attorney James Haddow.

    “It is my opinion this board doesn’t have authority to take a cafeteria approach to this site plan approval,” Haddow said. “The board isn't in a position to send something back because one finding isn't supported.”

    Despite the setback, O’Connell said BHWP is exploring its options to move forward and plans to release a statement on its position and next steps.