NEWRY — The Planning Board elected officers Wednesday night.

They are: Chairman Doug Webster, Vice Chairman Ron Guertin, and secretary Brooks Morton.

Turning to other business, members sought answers from Merrill Hill Estates owner Kathleen Meador and her project engineer, Joe Aloisio, about the project’s next four phases.

It is an 88-home subdivision initially approved in 2005 to be built out in eight phases as the single-family home lots sold. Merrill Hill is a 460-acre parcel of land that runs along Sunday River to the peak of Merrill Hill.

It was also approved by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Newry’s approved plan was revised in 2007 to include a phasing schedule documenting three phases as complete. Code Enforcement Officer Dave Bonney said another phase was also complete. The revision was approved.

However, Newry’s revised and approved subdivision application later expired, so Meador had to reapply in March for roughly 44 lots in phases four through seven. She and Aloisio believed the Planning Board was going to approve those phases Wednesday night and not void the project with the Oxford County Registry of Deeds in Paris as expired.

That’s where confusion set in for Meador, who owns the development with her husband, Robert. They live in Northeast Harbor and Casey Key, Fla. They weren’t aware their Newry permit had expired.

Bonney said approved MDEP subdivision applications do not expire, whereas Newry’s applications carry an expiration date for project completion. When the permit expired, that voided the 2005 approval for phases four through seven, which were deemed not substantially complete.

Phases one, two, three and eight weren’t affected, because they have been completed or are substantially complete.

Additionally, since 2005, Newry’s Unified Development Review Ordinance underwent changes, so the applicant must conform the project to those changes.

On Wednesday night, Meador and Aloisio handed out copies of maps for the remaining phases and other documentation requested by the previous board.

Aloisio said there are still many lots in the development’s lower area that need to be sold. “So we understand there is a delay, but we’re trying to be upfront and say that’s the plan right now,” he said. “Hopefully, you can accelerate.”

Planners, however, took their time trying to understand everything. Webster asked Aloisio about a performance guarantee.

Aloisio said the board had not sent documentation to the registry to void the subdivision. He said he was told not to register the new map for the four uncompleted phases, because it’s identical to the initial map. Instead, he said he was told a letter from the board would suffice.

Aloisio said they are not requesting a performance guarantee, “because we won’t sell every lot until the roads are accepted by the town, and then we can get building permits, like we did on the lower (lots).”

Webster asked planning assistant Becky Bean if the board was going to send findings of fact to the registry, voiding the four unfinished phases, prompting surprised and alarmed comment from Meador.

“I thought you guys were going to give us a chance where you wouldn’t void us out on our title,” she said.

Webster said they have to notify the public per the ordinance.

Morton and Webster said the board already voted to void those phases.

Meador said she didn’t realize the board discussed that at the March 4 meeting after Meador and Aloisio left.

However, due to revisions made to the findings of fact, the board was going to address that Wednesday night before notifying the registry to void the expired application.

“You know, I’ve flown from Florida to be here at the last three meetings,” Meador said. “We were working toward a goal not to slander the title of our project … I thought we were just working in good faith. I guess that’s my misunderstanding, but I’m really shocked.”

Webster started through a list of possible conditions of approval to determine their relevance to the project.

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