FRYEBURG – After a donor came forward with a promise to pay half the legal bill, a group of neighbors has jumped back into the fight against Poland Spring Water Co. and its proposed truck-loading facility in East Fryeburg.

For the last several months, a loosely affiliated group of townspeople called Western Maine Residents for Rural Living has aggressively protested the facility, hiring attorney Philip Merrill to represent them.

In January, after the town’s Board of Appeals overturned the Planning Board’s approval of the facility, the group had won a victory. But they also said they were backing down from the struggle, which is continuing in Oxford County Superior Court, because it was too expensive.

Nestle Waters North America, which owns Poland Spring, wants to build a loading operation on Route 302 where trucks could fill up on aquifer water pumped from a well in neighboring Denmark.

The bottled water company headquartered in Poland filed an appeal of the Board of Appeals’ decision in February at the Superior Court in Paris. The town has hired Portland attorney Michael Hill to defend Fryeburg and the Board of Appeals.

Although in the end the Board of Appeals ruled in the neighbors’ favor, the neighbors were not happy that the Board of Appeals rejected many of the arguments they raised in opposition to the facility.

Scott Gamwell, who is part of Western Maine Residents, said Tuesday that an individual stepped forward at the last minute with a pledge to match raised contributions to cover attorney fees. This has allowed the group to file a cross-appeal. Gamwell did not identify the donor.

“We really feel allowing a commercial operation like this will have an adverse effect on neighborhoods,” Gamwell said. “We do need continuing support from people who agree with this.”

Nestle representatives say that their business is based on a natural resource – spring water – which is allowed in a rural zone, according to town law. The number of trucks will be limited to 50 a day, and the company has promised to minimize impact such as installing noise barriers around the facility.

Gamwell said contributions have come in from people living in town, as well as outside of Fryeburg, possibly because people are concerned about more truck traffic. He anticipates attorney fees will cost between $10,000 and $15,000. The group has hired attorney Scott Anderson of Portland.

Now that the neighbors have rejoined the lawsuit, the case will have two prongs. Hill will defend the Board of Appeal’s decision to overturn Nestle’s permit based on its finding that the facility could decrease abutters’ enjoyment of their property and land value. But the neighbors will pursue several other allegations, arguing for instance that the facility is not allowed in a rural zone.



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