The Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club does not constitute a business under the town’s building code ordinance, the Alna Board of Selectmen decided Wednesday, June 10.
The board voted 2-0-1 based on a recommendation from town attorney Amanda Meader. First Selectman Melissa Spinney recused herself. Her husband, Jeff Spinney, established the club.
Second Selectman Doug Baston had previously recused himself from deciding whether the club constitutes a business, because he wrote the definition when he was on the Alna Planning Board. Baston voted Wednesday. In a June 3 meeting, he had explained that he would follow Meader’s recommendation.
“As to my recusal last week, to clarify, I don’t have a conflict of interest, I have a preconceived notion, because I’m the one who wrote the language that defines a business in our building code,” Baston said June 3.
“My concern is that I shouldn’t be interpreting words that I wrote, because obviously I know what I meant,” he said. Meader agreed, so he recused himself.
“I think the decision about what those words mean should be made by people who come to the words fresh. … I have agreed that whatever conclusion Amanda draws about whether Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club is or is not a business, I will abide by her recommendation,” Baston said June 3.
Jeff Spinney plans to build a boat ramp and dock for club use on his property at 126 Golden Ridge Road, on the Sheepscot River.
His proposal has met with resistance from dozens of residents of Alna and the surrounding area, who say it would bring development and a previously unseen level of boating activity to a pristine stretch of river.
Jeff Spinney has obtained permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but still needs a shoreland zoning permit from the town of Alna. He chairs the Alna Planning Board, but has recused himself from the board’s consideration of his application.
In a letter to Baston and Third Selectman Greg Shute, Meader cited two qualifications from the ordinance that determine what constitutes a business – whether the entity sells goods or services, and whether revenue exceeds $500 per year.
Meader said in the letter that while Jeff Spinney will provide club members with access to property, she does not consider that to be a service.
“There is no evidence that the Club will have any significant annual expenses,” Meader said in the June 10 letter.
According to Melissa Spinney, club members will not be required to pay dues, contrary to information given by Jeff Spinney in past meetings.
Cathy Johnson, a resident and retired environmental law attorney, has been a vocal opponent of the project.
“I am very disappointed in the Selectmen’s decision not to require a business permit for the Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club,” Johnson said in an email.
Johnson said similar nonprofits have business permits, citing the Juniper Hill School for Place-based Education, of Alna, and the Wiscasset Rod and Gun Club as examples. She questioned what makes Golden Ridge different.
“It is hard not to wonder whether the decision was influenced by the fact that the head of the club is the chairman of the Planning Board,” she said in the email.
Meader, who joined the selectmen’s meeting by phone, said business ordinances come down to interpretation. “It’s not black and white,” she said.
The planning board will hold a continuation of its May 29 public hearing regarding Spinney’s project at 6 p.m., Thursday, June 18, followed by a regular meeting.
(Correction: An earlier version of this article online and on Page 5 of the June 18 print edition incorrectly reported that Alna Second Selectman Doug Baston did not explain why he voted that the Golden Ridge Sportsman’s Club does not constitute a business June 10, after recusing himself from the matter May 20. Baston clarified his recusal and said he would follow the town attorney’s recommendation during a June 3 meeting. The Lincoln County News regrets the error.)