Seitzers share Coulombe emails
During the June 11 Boothbay Harbor selectmen’s meeting, John and Lynne Seitzer shared emails they said local businessman and developer Paul Coulombe sent them. The Seitzers’ art gallery, Joy to the Wind, sits across Atlantic Avenue from Coulombe’s Boothbay Harbor Oceanside Golf Resort.
Before reading the emails aloud, John Seitzer told the board he felt it was necessary because it involves the democratic process of public meeting attendance. “We’ve raised questions and concerns regarding the proposed zoning changes for the east side. (The emails) were clearly an attempt to silence us and stop us from speaking at public meetings.”
In an interview, Lynne Seitzer said that, besides a short, unrelated email exchange, the emails began after the Seitzers had spoken at many of the workgroup meetings. The first of the emails the Seitzers presented in public forum came on the afternoon of April 25, hours before a public forum to review the workgroup's recommendations for the planning board. John Seitzer said that up until that point, correspondence with Coulombe was fairly amicable.
“That (timing) was very telling,” John Seitzer said in an interview. “Before the meeting he's saying basically ‘Keep your mouth shut and maybe we can do business with you.’ So he's trying to bribe us by speculatively offering business for us.”
The Seitzers handed out copies of the correspondence. An email the copies attribute to Coulombe reads: “You've chosen to be an enemy of mine for life, that will not bode well for you financially. I am giving you one last chance to support me in my revisions of the ordinances and zoning. If not then you will always have an uphill battle with me. Not your best choice. Think seriously about your position.”
“So, that's a threat to my livelihood,” John Seitzer said in an interview. “Being a neighboring business … I don't know how he can affect it, but he's got more money than I've got, so who knows?”
The Boothbay Register reached out to Coulombe for comment on the emails. Asked what he his meant by the Seitzers’ opposition to the ordinance changes being a bad decision financially, Coulombe said he would have bought their art to furnish new buildings which would have been a start to new and increased business in the future.
“The new zoning would enhance their business, not hurt it,” Coulombe said.
As for referring to the zoning and ordinance changes as “his,” Coulombe said the process was only started because he initiated it and it was something the planning board had discussed last year.
“I suggested that having nonconforming businesses made no sense for the future of the east side. It has been a full inclusive process with an advisory group that took all the input at many meetings to come to comprehensive recommendations for the planning board. It was a fair and unbiased process having everyone’s interest in mind.”
The Seitzers said in an interview, their issue with the workgroup recommendations has been mostly about introducing condominiums to the east side of the harbor.
“… We said we didn't think that it would be (a good idea) moving condos from 500 feet down to 25 feet from the highwater mark,” Lynne Seitzer said. “We don't see it being a real long-term generator for the economy … and we don't see it as linking the east and the west side.”
Also in the interview, Seitzers said that throughout the process, they have spent hours, even days, educating themselves on the zoning process, ordinances’ language, and state and federal laws. Lynne Seitzer said they felt if they were going to speak at meetings, they should have at least some grasp of how things work and what possible changes mean.
Through the process, they have felt threatened by some of the things Coulombe has said, the Seitzers said in the interview. “We're not going to cower and hide,” said Lynne Seitzer. “We feel we have to stand up for what we believe in and that's all a person can do really.”
Board chair Wendy Wolf described the correspondence as "disturbing," but said, as a board, nothing can really be done about personal communications. Said Wolf, "Is that unfortunate? Yes. Do I thank you for highlighting that in the sense of trying to point out people are trying to influence a process we are trying to keep open and transparent? Yes, and I think that's very important to bring that to light."
Board members all agreed the emails were disheartening and unfortunate. Wolf said she is old-fashioned so she prefers face to face conversation to become acquainted with people and their ideas and concerns. She suggested that people may want to approach communication that way. "If you're afraid to get up and speak publicly on BRTV, there are other ways to communicate and I would encourage people to do that and make sure that you are sharing your thoughts – sometimes just inviting a person and saying 'I'd like to share this with you, could I have a cup of coffee with you?'"
This article has been updated from it original posting.