Alna Second Selectman Doug Baston clashed with critics of a proposal to build a waterfront facility for a sportsman’s club on the Sheepscot River during a selectmen’s meeting Wednesday, June 3.
“This is so disheartening, because 85% of the town just really doesn’t care about this at all,” Baston said in response to criticism of the proposal. “This isn’t even on their radar, and it’s just consuming so much of our time.”
“The folks that I talk to around town, who don’t come to these meetings, who don’t sign the letters, are just perplexed by all of this,” Baston said. “I’m not diminishing your concern. It’s valid, it’s clearly upsetting a lot of people, but a lot of people are just mystified, too.”
Alna Planning Board Chair Jeff Spinney is proposing to build a boat ramp and dock facility for the nonprofit Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club on his property at 126 Golden Ridge Road, also home to a campground and shooting range.
Residents of Alna and nearby towns have expressed concern about potential harm to an undeveloped area of the river. They say Jeff Spinney and the club are already in violation of town regulations.
Criticism has also focused on potential conflicts of interest, due to Jeff Spinney’s role as chair of the planning board and the role of his wife, Melissa Spinney, as first selectman. Both have recused themselves from deliberations on the project.
The proposal was the subject of a three-hour public hearing before the planning board May 29 and several previous meetings, as well as multiple letters to the selectmen, each with the signatures of 30-50 residents.
Critics continued to voice their disapproval during the selectmen’s videoconference meeting Wednesday, and some feel the selectmen are dismissing their concerns.
The selectmen limited public comment to the beginning and end of the meeting and restricted the amount of time each person could speak to five minutes, frustrating some residents.
Carol Gardner, a signatory on several letters critical of the project, said it felt unfair that Kristin Collins, Jeff Spinney’s attorney, had additional time to speak.
Jon Luoma, another signatory to the letters, said Baston should “be very careful about demonizing the Alna citizens, including some citizens from neighboring towns, who are expressing concerns about this matter.”
“Stop putting words into my mouth,” Baston said to Luoma. “Stop making me somebody I’m not.”
“This is the third time that some, I don’t know, snide implication has come about about what I’m saying. I’m not demonizing anybody,” Baston said.
The campground and shooting range on Jeff Spinney’s property were the subject of much discussion at the meeting.
Alna Code Enforcement Officer Tom McKenzie said the shooting range consists of “a large field” with a bench and targets. He sees the range as being for personal use and does not consider it a commercial enterprise.
Whether the club and its activities constitute commercial land use will determine what town regulations apply to the property.
“I think this became an issue because it was mentioned in the draft materials that Jeff provided to the (Maine Department of Environmental Protection) related to the sportsman’s club,” Collins said. “If the opponents are trying to say that the sportsman’s club is a commercial entity, then any of its uses would be commercial uses, and I guess that’s what they’re trying to say.”
“The shooting range is not part of the sportsman’s club in any of the final documents,” Collins said. “The club has no authority to use it.”
The Alna Planning Board will take up the proposal again Thursday, June 18.