The Whitefield Appeals Board voted not to overturn the planning board’s approval of Central Maine Power’s development application on Thursday, Oct. 7.
The planning board first began reviewing the 10.9-mile transmission line project in May 2020. The board approved CMP’s application on June 30, 2021.
Mary Morgan, a former enforcement and permit specialist for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, submitted a request to appeal the planning board’s decision in a letter to the board of appeals on July 29, arguing that the planning board did not adequately involve members of the community in the decision process with a public hearing and failed to address some parts of the town’s development ordinance in its review.
There were about 11 members of the public, not counting CMP representatives in attendance, at the Oct. 7 meeting, which lasted about 3.5 hours.
The board conducted a de novo review of seven items cited in Morgan’s appeal under the 2014 Building and Development Ordinance.
These included the planning board’s decision not to hold a public hearing on CMP’s application for the line, the surface water mapping supplied by CMP with its application, the extent to which surface waters will be disturbed in the construction process, the timing of the application fee submission by CMP, use of herbicides near surface waters, impediments to traffic, and the impact of blasting on abutters and the town at large.
While discussing the planning board’s decision not to hold a public hearing, appeals board member Bill Brooke asked Morgan if the planning board ever deviated from the rules set out for them in the development ordinance.
“I hesitate to say that they did something against the rules. What I would say is that their review was very cursory,” Morgan said.
Brooke responded that Morgan was describing a judgment regarding deficiencies in the town’s ordinance that had nothing to do with the requirements laid out for the planning board.
Lisa Gilbreath, an attorney with Pierce Atwood representing CMP, seized on Morgan’s comment in her own argument, which she made at the last appeals board meeting on Sept. 9.
“Ms. Morgan admitted to the board that there’s no violation of the development ordinance here, period. I mean, this appeal starts and ends there,” Gilbreath said.
After reviewing each item, the board unanimously voted that Morgan’s appeal, in each case, did not have merit under the ordinance.
While Morgan expressed dissatisfaction with the breadth of the planning board’s review, the appeals board determined she had not produced evidence that the board was not in compliance with the town’s ordinances.