Eastside Waterfront Park goes to court

Wed, 06/21/2023 - 4:30pm

    The Eastside Waterfront Park conflict went to Lincoln County Superior Court June 15 when Boothbay Harbor Waterfront Preservation and park abutters John and Jill Doyle delivered arguments for review. This is the first time the issue has gone to court, according to the Doyles’ lawyer, Kristin Collins.   

    After a series of legal moves, the superior court ordered both parties to present consolidated briefs. This is the latest action in an ongoing conflict between the Doyles and BBHWP regarding the construction of a park at 65 Atlantic Ave. 

    According to President John O’Connell, BBHWP made an April court appeal to counter a Boothbay Harbor Board of Appeals decision that would effectively stop progress on the park.  

    "We have to preserve our rights, and the only recourse we had was to go to the courts,” O'Connell said. “Reluctantly, the court is our option." 

    The court then ordered both parties to consolidate their arguments. The court said both parties are covering the project and they wanted to hear them together, according to O’Connell.   

    The issues include the recent BBHWP appeal and action from the Doyles’ contesting areas of the park’s plan which goes back as far as 2021.  

    BBHWP’s appeal action motivated the Doyles to keep the fight in court, according to Collins. She said the Doyles have already achieved what they wanted since the board of appeals nullified the park permit, and that the park is taking this to court rather than going back to the planning board with a new design. 

    "All of our litigation would have been mooted if the park hadn't decided to appeal the board of appeals decision,” she said. “We would have dismissed everything at court had they not filed their own appeal of the board of appeals decision." 

    O'Connell said the planning board, which approved the park design, did its job and most of the issues in the park have been thoroughly covered and dealt with. He said designing a new park comes with complications beyond just time and money. 

    “If you start literally from scratch … there are also umpteen opportunities to file an appeal on something (the Doyles) haven't filed before,” he said. “It is an option, except it also incurs additional delays and opportunities for appeals. You can string this stuff out for years." 

    The parties will get to review each other's 80B briefs and respond within 30 days of filing. Past that, both parties are unsure of a timeline. 

    If BBHWP loses, its permit could be rescinded and BBHWP may need to restart the permitting process or go further through the court system. If the Doyles lose, Collins said there is a chance they would move an appeal to the supreme court. 

    However, both Collins and O'Connell were optimistic about their respective cases.

    "I think the court is always inclined to defer to a town's hard work on these issues,” Collins said. "We don't see it being likely that the Board of Appeals decision gets reversed. As always, we are hopeful that the park will go back to the planning board and try again." 

    O’Connell thinks the court will recognize what BBHWP is trying to do. He said once the court realize BBHWP is a nonprofit set up to help the community and working waterfront gain public access to the shore, “it's kind of hard not to see this as an asset for the town and the public, generally."    

    O’Connell was also confident that, no matter what, a park will happen.  

    "It's certainly taken way longer than we ever anticipated, but there's no doubt in our mind that we will have our park,” he said. "We’ve got huge community support, we’ve got donors from all over the country, we just have to plug on and do what we need to do to get this thing built.”