The Alna Board of Appeals, during a Zoom meeting Friday, Oct. 16, upheld the Alna Planning Board’s decision to deny a shoreland zoning permit for the Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club project.
Jeff Spinney had appealed the planning board’s June 29 denial of the permit to build a boat ramp and dock for the private club at his 126 Golden Ridge Road property on the Sheepscot River.
The task for the board of appeals was to determine whether the planning board members who voted against the application, Jim Amaral and Laurie Hiestand, had sufficient evidence to support their vote.
“There are equal facts on either side as to whether or not a ramp existed,” said appeals board member David Buczkowski. “What matters is, was the decision based on sound evidence and sound reasoning? That’s what our vote needs to be.”
Spinney’s attorney, Kristin Collins, gave a presentation at the hearing. She showed photos and videos of Spinney’s property and relayed testimony from past users of a boat ramp at the site.
Collins said the planning board applied an undue level of scrutiny to the application and its reasoning was too narrow.
“I think it was wrong for the planning board to have focused on historical use and existence of this ramp as a structure, but even if they did get there, I think they decided it wrong,” Collins said.
There were also presentations by attorney Gordon Smith, representing Carol Ervin; and attorney Patrick Lyons, representing the Philbrick family. Both Ervin and the Philbrick family live in Alna and have been outspoken opponents of the project. Both attorneys argued in favor of the planning board’s denial.
“Regardless of how he tries to spin it, Mr. Spinney’s boat ramp is a structure, and a new one is not permitted below the high-tide line,” Lyons said.
Appeals board member Mary Bowers said she thinks Amaral and Hiestand misinterpreted the intent of the shoreland zoning ordinance.
“One purpose of this ordinance is to conserve points of access to coastal waters,” she said. “I think this project is conserving a point of access.”
She said the ramp should be considered a legally nonconforming structure, and that she believes resurfacing and stabilizing the area is allowed under the ordinance.
Bowers voted to overturn the planning board’s decision. Buczkowski and Alex Pugh both voted to uphold it. Alternate member David Abbott was present but not voting.
“I can see how they weighed a whole lot of information and came up with the conclusion that they did,” Pugh said. “I would’ve had a really hard time with it myself, but I think I can understand why they came up with what they did.”
The board will issue a written decision within 30 days. If Spinney and Collins choose to appeal the decision, they would need to appeal it to the Lincoln County Superior Court.