Board taking up boat landing controversy

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OTISFIELD – Selectmen will hold a special meeting Thursday to discuss a Saturday Pond project that was halted last fall after the board determined the applicant did not have the necessary approvals.

The meeting will be held at the town office at 7:30 p.m.

The issue surrounds a town boat launch and swimming area where Paris resident Dale Verrill, who co-owns eight lots on Saturday Pond, last fall cut down four trees as part of an overall improvement project to the launch and swimming area.

The selectmen issued a stop-work order because Verrill did not have approval from the town to remove the trees, which were within 100 feet of shoreland zoning, selectmen’s Chairman Mark Cyr said Monday.

“We’re taking a proactive approach,” Cyr said. “We are going to seek input from a couple of people who have shoreland zoning experience and try to rectify the unfortunate situation.”

Selectmen were approached about the project last fall by Tom Kennison, owner of Western Maine Surveying and Development in Oxford, who is representing Verrill and applied for the original project permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Kennison said Monday that Verrill wants to stop beach erosion in the area and make the boat launch safer.

Cyr said selectmen asked for a basic project plan to be submitted to them and to the Planning Board. The project also needed final approval from selectmen, he said.

Cyr said none of those steps were taken. “I am shocked that the work got done without any approval or following any guidelines,” he said.

However, Kennison said he believed he had proper approval from DEP to proceed with the work. Kennison said he believed he had a permit-by-rule approval from DEP because he had not received any correspondence from the state agency for 14 days after the original application filing.

“Approval is automatic (after 14 days),” he said. “I had no communication (from DEP) in that 14-day period. I told Dale, I guess you can do it.” Kennison said he also obtained permission to remove the trees from Richard Bean, Otisfield’s road commissioner.

“He’s trying to make it so it’s user friendly,” he said. “We’re trying to do everything properly. Dale plans on working with the town and DEP and doing whatever they want done.

“Erosion has been running into the lake for many years,” said Kennison. “Dale was trying to get it stabilized before winter came.”

Kennison said he received a letter from the town of Otisfield in January, informing him that DEP had contacted town officials in December, requesting more information on the project.

“We stopped work immediately,” he said. “In fact we haven’t done anything since the fall.”

Kennison said Verrill has hired a Falmouth-based engineering firm to complete the permit application process so the project can proceed. Other work is necessary including installing stone material on the ground to stop erosion.

At least one resident told selectmen she wants to see the area turned back into a swimming area without a boat launch.

“I am sad about the trees that have been cut down,” said Jean Hankins in an e-mail to the board. “I hope you selectmen will do your very best to turn the area back into a swimming beach suitable for little children and not big power boats.”

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