FRYEBURG – A Poland Spring water trucking facility proposed for Route 302 does not constitute a low-impact business, the town’s Planning Board ruled Tuesday.

The decision is the second setback to befall the proposal in a week, after voters decided to place a six-month moratorium on the transportation of bulk water through the town.

The board reached the 3-1 decision after about an hour, during which board members expressed their opinions on the matter, said Code Enforcement Officer Boni Rickett. Town Manager Phil Covelli said he expects a written decision on the matter by Friday.

Poland Spring, a subsidiary of Nestle Waters North America Inc., first applied in 2005 for a permit to put in a $2.1 million facility to load tankers with spring water piped from a Denmark aquifer. The facility would be open 24 hours a day and serve a maximum of 50 trucks per day, although Poland Spring officials have said the average would be much lower.

Public input was not allowed at the meeting, but residents had previously protested that the facility would constitute a commercial structure in a rural residential zone and expressed concern over more traffic, the possibility of accidents, noise, and ecological and health effects of the facility. Several people also formed the organization Western Maine Residents for Rural Living, which is against construction of the facility.

“We finally felt like we had a good group of Planning Board members who listened and took those issues into account when they made that decision,” said Scott Anderson, attorney for the Western Maine Residents.

The question over whether the facility is a low-impact business was remanded to the Planning Board by Justice Roland Cole last August. Anderson said the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has upheld the remand.

Anderson said he wrote a letter to the board after Election Day suggesting that the board not take up the issue due to the moratorium decision last Tuesday. In a 467-304 vote, the town decided to put a moratorium on permits issued for the processing and transportation of bulk water for the next six months.

The referendum question, put forth by a member of the Western Maine Residents, stated that the moratorium would apply retroactively to all permits issued after Jan. 1, 2005, unless 50 percent of a facility’s construction had been completed.

Following the advice of their attorney, Bill Dale, the board decided unanimously to proceed with the question. Kathleen Heggie, Carol Gregory and Mike Holtgrefe decided that the facility was not low-impact, while David Andrews cast the dissenting vote.

Ed Price, a Planning Board member who is a member of Western Maine Residents and has spoken against the facility, recused himself from the vote. Anderson said Gene Bergoffen, the previous chairman of the board, resigned last month after the board recused him from the issue on belief that he had a conflict of interest with the trucking industry.

According to Fryeburg’s Web site, the town’s selectmen accepted Bergoffen’s resignation on Oct. 18.

Dale said the issue may return to the Board of Appeals, which overturned the first permit issued to Poland Spring. Anderson said he expects the matter will eventually return to the Oxford County Superior Court, and that Cole will uphold his original decision. He said the matter might still go to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Mark DuBois, natural resource manager for Nestle Waters, said the company has opened an office at 568 Main St. to hear the concerns of residents. He said Route 302 is designated for heavy trucks and that Poland Spring trucking schedules can be negotiated with the town.

“We feel it’s a pretty good location,” said DuBois, arguing that the site for the proposed facility has good line of site and would include turning lanes and a buffer of tree growth. “I think when we chose this spot we picked the best place for it.”

DuBois said representatives from Poland Spring will meet with the selectmen and are considering their options, which include appealing the decision and meeting with those opposed to the facility.


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