Why CMBG lost
CMBG just lost its permit for their $28 million development. Why? On the surface, it’s because the Board of Appeals understood that CMBG’s claim that it was primarily an “educational facility” was a pretense and a ploy.
CMBG has been happy to call itself a museum for permit and grant applications. This makes sense, because it’s common practice for public gardens in the U.S. to be accredited as museums.
But museums are not an allowed use in the protected watershed of Knickerbocker Lake. So CMBG designed their development (using three federal “Museums for America” grants worth hundreds of thousands of dollars) to put half of their 850 parking spaces in the watershed, and then claimed for the first time that they were more like an educational facility than a museum.
My family and others presented evidence, using CMBG’s numbers, that proved CMBG was nothing like a school (only 3 percent of its visitors take classes, for example) and that they had identified as a museum for many years. Three courageous members of the board rejected CMBG’s false claim and revoked their permit.
But more importantly, CMBG lost its permit because it no longer acts like a responsible local nonprofit. Through this development process, CMBG has consistently failed to put the community first, act environmentally, or reliably tell the truth. In just a year and a half, CMBG’s new management has squandered much of the trust the Boothbay community has offered them over the previous 20 years.
A good word for this might be hubris, but let’s just call it old-fashioned arrogance. From the beginning, CMBG refused to engage with the Boothbay community in their planning, refused to bring their plan to the town for a vote when the Planning Board requested it, and refused to admit their plan’s fatal flaws.
Will CMBG double down on their bad plan, or will they do the right thing and replant the forest in the watershed? In their arrogance, they spent millions on the project even though it was under appeal. CMBG gambled that my family, the Water District, and a host of concerned citizens could not beat them with the truth.
Is that a gamble they’ll continue to make, at the town’s expense?