The Alna Board of Selectmen is considering a draft settlement agreement with Jeff Spinney regarding his application for a boat ramp on the Sheepscot River, but some abutters whose names appear on the document say they will not sign it.
The ordinance would allow the construction of the ramp, but limit its use. Members of the private Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club could only use the facility for nonmotorized boating.
On June 26, the Alna Planning Board denied Jeff Spinney’s application for a permit under the town’s shoreland zoning ordinance for a boat ramp and dock for club use. The Alna Board of Appeals upheld the denial Oct. 16. Jeff Spinney and the town have since engaged in mediation in an effort to avoid litigation.
In November, Jeff Spinney brought a new application to the board, for earthwork and the use of a temporary aluminum roadway as a boat ramp. The planning board, after a change in membership, approved the application Dec. 10. The property is at 126 Golden Ridge Road.
The draft settlement agreement states that it is “by and between” Jeff Spinney, the town of Alna, and seven abutters and near neighbors. But according to one of those neighbors, Cathy Johnson, most of them were excluded from the mediation process.
At a Tuesday, Jan. 5 planning board meeting, Jeff Spinney and his attorney, Kristin Collins, said that if the abutters do not sign, the settlement will still be a valid agreement between Jeff Spinney and the town.
Third Selectman Greg Shute spoke at the meeting, asking the planning board to acknowledge the settlement agreement in its findings of facts regarding Jeff Spinney’s second application.
“The hope was that we could come to some sort of an agreement that everybody would sign, but in the end, we did not come to a conclusion that everybody felt comfortable signing,” Shute said. “On behalf of the town, we did feel comfortable signing it.”
Shute cited a provision in Section 16 of the agreement: “Failure of any named party to execute this Agreement shall have no effect on the binding nature of the Agreement to the parties who do execute it.”
No one has signed the agreement yet. Second Selectman Doug Baston and Shute planned to vote on whether to approve the agreement at the Wednesday, Jan. 6 selectmen’s meeting. First Selectman Melissa Spinney is married to Jeff Spinney and will recuse herself from the vote.
Collins recommended that the planning board reconsider the Dec. 10 findings of fact to incorporate the conditions in the settlement agreement.
The settlement agreement says that Jeff Spinney can construct his original ramp project for residential use only. The Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club may use the launch only for nonmotorized boats and only if it has no more than 10 members. That condition may change if the Maine Department of Environmental Protection finds it to be a violation of its permit.
A clause in the agreement says Jeff Spinney will relinquish his rights of appeal to the planning board and appeals board. There is a similar clause for the neighbors, but the clauses involving them will not go into effect if they do not sign.
Upon signing the agreement, Jeff Spinney will also abandon the part of the second application pertaining to the temporary aluminum roadway.
“The idea of this mediation is, it provides a flexible way to propose something that might, in fact, require further board action,” Collins said. “Usually what that means is that something is sent back to the planning board to modify or amend its decision, so that there’s something on the record that addresses the agreed upon conditions.”
The planning board voted to incorporate the conditions of the settlement agreement into the Dec. 10 findings of fact. The motion passed with four votes in favor. Laurie Hiestand abstained.
Jeff Spinney completed construction of a boat ramp on his property Dec. 27, raising objections from abutters.
Attorney Gordon Smith sent a letter to Code Enforcement Officer Tom McKenzie on behalf of the abutters Dec. 28. In the letter, Smith said that Jeff Spinney built the ramp while mediation was ongoing and before the planning board issued a written permit.
The letter states that Jeff Spinney’s construction would require a new DEP permit, but that would only be required if he used the temporary aluminum roadway.
“What has been constructed to date is exactly what was explained, discussed, and permitted,” Jeff Spinney said in a Jan. 4 email. He said the materials used have been seen by the planning board and members of the public who attended site visits, and that he was in possession of a signed permit while construction was taking place.
The planning board did not address the letter at the Jan. 5 meeting.