The Alna Board of Selectmen, on Thursday, Nov. 5, tentatively scheduled a special referendum vote for Tuesday, Dec. 8 on a citizen’s petition to amend Alna’s shoreland zoning ordinance.
Alna resident Ralph Hilton submitted the petition to the town office Oct. 23.
Hilton’s petition seeks to amend Line 17 of the table of uses in Section 14 of the ordinance. The line says that temporary piers, docks, wharfs, bridges, and other structures and uses extending over or below the high-water line or within a wetland are subject to planning board approval. The line also says that no permanent structures may be permitted by the planning board.
Through the citizen’s petition, Hilton wants to make it possible for the planning board to approve a permanent structure if the applicant has received a Natural Resources Protection Act permit, where required.
An application for a permit under the shoreland zoning ordinance — and the planning board’s denial of the permit — have stirred controversy in Alna since late last year.
Jeff Spinney applied for the permit to build a boat ramp and dock for use by the private Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club at his 126 Golden Ridge Road property on the Sheepscot River. The planning board denied the application June 26 and the board of appeals upheld the denial Oct. 16.
Hilton has been a vocal supporter of Spinney and his project. If his petition is successful and the ordinance is changed, it could clear a path for approval of Spinney’s project.
“This, I believe, clears the language up,” Hilton said. He cited construction at the Head Tide Dam in fall 2019, when heavy equipment was used in the water to modify the dam and improve public access.
“Mr. Spinney just wanted to put some riprap and a boat launching ramp, and they (the planning board) said no, but gave a permit to Head Tide Dam, which I don’t think is in the ordinance as it is presently written,” Hilton said. “I think it was issued in error.”
Hilton wants to make the language in the ordinance more consistent.
Second Selectman Doug Baston said the selectmen have asked the planning board to review Hilton’s proposed change at a Nov. 10 meeting to determine if it would create more problems with the ordinance.
Golden Ridge mediation
Baston and Third Selectman Greg Shute received a letter from the Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Service, part of the Maine Judicial Branch, asking them to participate in mediation for the Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club matter.
At the selectmen’s Oct. 21 meeting, Baston had encouraged the parties to the appeal to seek mediation before going to court.
After exhausting the municipal appeal process, a plaintiff — in this case, Spinney — has the right to seek mediation before going to court, Baston said.
Baston and Shute will represent the town in mediation. They are responsible for providing a list of abutters and other stakeholders in the process. Baston said the cost of mediation is the responsibility of the plaintiff.
According to Baston, the plaintiff and the defendant can each choose three mediators from a list, then the Maine Association of Mediators will select one.
“It’s voluntary, but I certainly don’t see a downside,” Baston said. “If we can settle this matter by mediation, that’s better for everybody.”