The Lincoln County Rifle Club opposes a proposal by Piper Village Development to rezone four properties abutting its Damariscotta range.
The club, after expressing caution at earlier meetings, removed any doubt about its position at a March 5 public hearing before the Damariscotta Planning Board.
Lincoln County Rifle Club Vice President David Hungerford read a letter on behalf of the organization.
“While we respect Piper Village Development’s right to develop their property, we are concerned that uncontrolled development on our borders threatens our club’s existence,” Hungerford said.
The planning board, despite the club’s opposition, voted 3-1 to accept the proposal, which will go before the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen next.
The hearing packed almost 30 people into the meeting room at the Damariscotta town office.
John Mann, a Piper Village Development consultant, made a brief presentation and fielded routine questions about drainage, roads and sewer and water infrastructure.
Lee Parsons questioned the wisdom of commercial development adjacent to the rifle club.
“Why would you want to be in the line of sight of an active rifle range?” Parsons asked. “To me, it just doesn’t make any sense.”
“In my opinion, I think somebody’s walking into danger,” Parsons said.
Mann said several hundred feet of forest and an uphill slope separate the rifle range from the Piper Village property in question.
Later, Hungerford read the club’s letter. “It appears that Piper anticipates the acquisition of the Lincoln County Rifle Club in the future,” Hungerford said, pointing to a sketch plan distributed by Piper Village as evidence.
“In our minds, it appears the proposed zone change is part of a plan to make it difficult or impossible for the club to use our property as we have used it for the last 66 years,” Hungerford said.
The club asked the planning board to require Piper Village Development to present a detailed site plan for the entirety of its holdings in Damariscotta, instead of just the properties in the proposal.
“We hope you would take into consideration our views and deny the requested zoning change at this time,” Hungerford said.
Piper Village Development representatives refuted the club’s claims.
“We have no intention to take over the property in any form, in any sense,” Frank Roberts, an investor in Piper Village Development, said in a phone interview.
The letter came as a surprise, Roberts said, as Mann has had “numerous conversations” with the club leadership. “We have no issues with the gun club,” Roberts said.
Chester Rice objected to the letter. Rice owns one of the four properties in the proposal. Piper representatives and Rice have said the company has agreed to purchase Rice’s property.
“I’m a life member of the rifle club and I don’t think [the letter] is on behalf of the rifle club,” Rice said.
“I think the rifle club needs to think about what was just said and look at the big picture,” he added.
Lincoln County Rifle Club Treasurer Sandra Crehore defended the integrity of the letter, which gained the unanimous support of the members present at the last meeting, she said.
Mann said, as he has at previous meetings, that the light industrial development Piper proposes would create less of a conflict with the club than residential development, which is the only development allowable under existing zoning.
Jonathan Eaton, serving as planning board chairman in Fred Sewall’s absence, spoke in support of the proposal, calling it “a good idea.”
Steve Cole cast the dissenting vote.
“I would have considered a slightly different configuration,” he said. “I don’t want to be on record supporting the proposal as is.”
Piper Village Development proposes to move about 50 acres from the rural zone into the C-2 zone, which allows commercial and residential development.
The realty’s website describes a 47-acre property, available for $300,000, as a “large, developable parcel with good access to transportation routes.”
The company is asking $250,000 for a second, 13-acre property.
The smaller property abuts the Great Salt Bay Sanitary District headquarters and wastewater treatment plant to the west.
Castner Brook divides the properties north to south, and the larger property extends east to Heater Road.
Frank Roberts, a Piper Village Development investor, said the properties have been on the market for about six months.
Damariscotta lists Great Salt Bay Development, LLC as the owner of the properties, as well as another of the properties collectively known as Piper Commons. Damariscotta Development, LLC owns two more.
Despite the different names, “they’re all under one ownership,” Roberts said.