Planning board denies Colby & Gale request to clarify watershed boundary

Members rule 5-0 decision not theirs, voters responsible for any changes
Mon, 01/20/2020 - 10:00am

    The Boothbay Planning Board denied Colby & Gale’s request to clarify a watershed boundary line on its 683 Wiscasset Road location. COGA Holdings bought the property last spring for a propane fill tank satellite office. Colby & Gale proposed renovating two buildings and installing a 500- to 1,000-gallon propane tank. COGA Holdings and Colby & Gale President Matt Poole requested, on Jan. 15, for the planning board to clarify and identify the property’s watershed boundary line. 

    But the board voted 5-0 denying the company’s request citing a lack of jurisdiction and insufficient information on four storm water basins in the watershed. COGA had company in seeking a clarification in the watershed boundary line. Boothbay Region Water District is also questioning the boundary’s location established in 2004. The boundary is central to Colby & Gale’s plans for installing the propane tank. The preferred location is within a parcel outside the watershed boundary line recently identified by surveyor Nicholas Plumer. Both Colby & Gale and BRWD hired Plumer, who owns Boothbay Region Surveyors, to verify the watershed’s boundary. Plumer reported the new boundary is similar, but not identical, to the one drawn in 2004.

    After recalculating the boundary, Plumer wasn’t sure why the two lines didn't  match. BRWD monitors the watershed, and believes the 2004 boundaries are inaccurate based mainly on locations of four 30-plus-year-old storm water catch basins. “The 2004 line is clearly inaccurate. For Colby & Gale’s plan to go forward, they must provide new adequate engineering  plans in retrofitting the catch basins which clearly aren’t working,” said Natural Resources Program Manager Sue Mello.

    But the planning board declined to either identify or clarify the watershed boundary. All five members agreed any changes on a municipal map were up to Boothbay voters. “I think we are getting ahead of ourselves. This a matter for town meeting, not us,” said Chairman Sam Morris. 

    During the findings of facts, board members also denied Colby & Gale’s application based on inadequate information about the four catch basins’ ownership and effectiveness. Two catch basins installed in 1984 are believed to be owned by the property owner; the others are owned either by the town or Maine Department of Transportation, according to the board.

    “I don’t feel comfortable in making a decision. We need more information about the catch basins like if they are working properly and who owns them,” said board member Dimzie McBride.

    Prior to the meeting, the board held a public hearing on a proposed change in local timber harvesting regulations. Earlier this year, the board proposed changing a municipal timber harvesting ordinance. Currently, the town regulates timber harvesting in both the Adams Pond and Knickerbocker Lake Watershed and shoreland zones. The previous proposal would have kept a municipal regulation for the watershed, but replace a local ordinance with state regulations on the shoreland zone. 

    The proposal alarmed BRWD officials. District officials told the planning board, state timber harvesting ordinances weren’t stringent enough for protecting Boothbay’s drinking water supply. The district hired Mike Morris of Morris Environmental as a consultant. He wrote an alternative ordinance “for creating a better balance between water quality standards and timber harvesting.”

     “We think these ordinances will protect the watershed without being so restrictive that people won’t be able to harvest,” Mello said. 

    The board reviewed Morris’ proposal and scheduled the Jan. 15 public hearing for comment. No board members or citizens had any questions. The new timber harvest ordinance is part of a complete review of municipal ordinances based up the updated comprehensive plan voters approved in 2015.

    The board approved one wharves and wiers application and heard a pre-application proposal from a schoolteacher considering operating a personal training business in her home. The board voted 5-0 to approve a pier addition for Allen Maine Properties of Longview, Texas. Lauren Stockwell of Stockwell Environmental is Maine Properties’ consultant. She told the board her client wanted to extend its pier by 90 feet located on Higbee Lane. The property is in special residential and shoreland overlay zones.

    Nikki Tibbetts also discussed her plans with the board for operating a  business in her Murphy Road home. Tibbetts wants to run a personal fitness business on a limited basis. The board advised Tibbetts to check with her home association’s rule, but otherwise had no concerns about the proposal. 

    The board meets next at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19.