Planning board needs to step up
Boothbay Harbor taxpayers may be aware of the conflict over the downtown Newcastle Reality Building that is finally before the Planning Board some two years after it was built. Taxpayers will note, the Maine Supreme Court overturned several layers of town decisions on this issue for two reasons: First, the lack of notification to the abutters; and second, because of a lack of facts, details and records in the town’s permitting of this project. Both of those problems run contrary to town law.
Neighbors maintain that the building is illegal in size and has other problems.
As a result of the courts remand, last Wednesday night, the planning board heard from the builder who would submit the project retroactively for a site plan review, if the board agreed to hear it.
After much back and forth, many members of the planning board, incredibly, pushed back against the need for them to do a simple finding of fact with a site review.
Without even having an application before them, board members defended their position with personal opinions and faded recollections including whether the building was a “remodel” or a “complete rebuild” (it was the latter) - key distinctions of the permitting process that they neither tested nor documented before.
One planning board member expressed frustration that no one in the room agreed on the facts. Another member pointed out that this was a case “begging for mediation.” Board members agreed but missed the point that the applicant’s submission could form the foundation for just that. There can be no resolution of conflict if the town abdicates it’s essential duty to look critically at projects to set the record straight and test the code.
That same evening, that same board reviewed another pre-application from across the street using these very review requirements in another new project demonstrating obvious practical benefit. Consistent application of the law sets up confidence in a fair hearing and avoids unnecessary court expenses for all concerned including town taxpayers.
It’s time for the planning board to step up and and get the job done.
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