The Maine Supreme Judicial Court decided a superior court justice was correct when she upheld the Auburn Planning Board’s approval of site plans for a proposed Great Falls Plaza hotel and municipal parking garage.

Plans for the $12 million, 110-room hotel on Turner Street and a nearby 300-space garage had been sent back to the city by Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler about a year ago.The Board had reviewed it again and voted to approve it.

Lee Griswold and Riverwatch LLC, which owns the seven-year-old Hilton Garden Inn at Great Falls Plaza, had challenged in court initial approval by the city’s Planning Board in April 2008.

Griswold had appealed Wheeler’s ruling, arguing that the Planning Board lacked the authority to waive dimensional requirements and that it failed to comply with proper procedures before considering an amendment to an already-approved subdivision plan.

In its written decision Thursday, the high court’s panel of judges said, “Contrary to the assertions of Riverwatch, the Board did have the authority to waive a dimensional requirement because the waiver was authorized by ordinance and was not the granting of a variance.”

The panel wrote, “No error is demonstrated in the review process to consider the plan amendments and hear Riverwatch’s objections.”

Tom Platz, chief executive of Great Falls Plaza Development Corp., which proposed the project, couldn’t be reached Friday evening for comment. Griswold could not be reached through his hotel.

Platz said in published reports in mid-2008 that legal delays had dealt a blow to the project, claiming Griswold’s courtroom challenge was “just a stalling tactic.” Griswold denied the claim, noting he had not blocked other hotel proposals in the area.

Wheeler had sent the proposal back to the Planning Board in December 2008. The board was tasked with reviewing the site size and property setbacks, the project’s financial capability and the size requirements for a proposed loading zone.

The board gave a thumbs-up to the project again. Platz said at that time that his partner in the project, Mullaney Hospitality Group, had pulled out.


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