Committee to oversee pond project

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OTISFIELD – An ad hoc committee has been formed to oversee an improvement project to a boat launch and swimming area on Saturday Pond that has stirred recent controversy.

Mark Cyr, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Friday that the committee will handle the permitting process for a section of the lakeshore where Paris resident Dale Verrill had done preliminary work last fall by cutting down several trees.

Cyr said Verrill and his representative, Tom Kennison of Oxford, owner of Western Maine Surveying and Development, did not have approval by the selectmen or the Planning Board to do the work. The committee formation removes the project from Verrill and Kennison and places it under the town.

“It is in our best interest to take over that process and form an ad hoc committee,” said Cyr. “They are going to look at it and bring a recommendation to us.

“We will stop the current permitting process and initiate the permitting process by the town.”

The decision to form the committee was made at a special selectmen’s meeting Thursday. The committee will be headed by Rick Micklon, Planning Board chairman, and includes Selectman Hal Ferguson, community members and Zak Horton, Otisfield’s code enforcement officer.

Verrill owns eight lots on Saturday Pond and did the preliminary work to improve an existing boat launch and to stop beach erosion. Kennison had applied for the original project permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Kennison said last week that he believed he had permit-by-rule approval to begin the work because he had not had any correspondence from DEP for 14 days after the permit filing.

However the DEP sent a letter to town officials in December asking for more information on the project. In addition, Cyr said selectmen had requested a project plan from Kennison but one was never submitted. The project also never went before the Planning Board.

Micklon said the trees that were removed were within shoreland zoning, and it was a town ordinance violation to cut them without approval from the Planning Board.

“Shoreland zoning falls under Planning Board approval,” he said. “If you build or do any other activity within 250 feet of the shore, you have to get local approval.”

Cyr said some of the trees that were removed may be replanted but the project is still needed for the area to improve the boat launch and stop erosion. He said the committee will discuss options and bring a recommendation to the selectmen.

“A large group of people are not happy with what the contractor had done at the site. We never gave them approval to do the work,” he said. “We’re taking a negative thing and turning it into a positive one.”

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