JAY — The Planning Board requested legal representation following a tie vote Tuesday on allowing an alleged biased member to participate in a decision on a permit for Central Maine Power Co.’s proposed high-voltage power corridor, according to a recording of the meeting.

CMP attorney Matthew Manahan of Pierce Atwood firm in Portland asked board members Susan Theberge and Linda Reynolds to recuse themselves from discussion and voting on the shoreland zoning application and permit because of their alleged bias against the project and a conflict of interest. If they didn’t, he asked the board to vote on their participation.

Manahan claimed the bias is based on their known involvement as members of Say No To NECEC and No CMP Corridor and their individual opposition to the project. Manahan sent a letter in February with documentation to board Chairman Delance White and Code Enforcement Officer Ronda Palmer regarding the matter. Manahan submitted what he termed additional evidence Tuesday.

Voting in favor of allowing Theberge to participate in review and decision on the application were Barbara Cook, Flagg and White. Voting against were Mike Hobbs, Dennis Stevens and Alfred Dufour III.

The motion failed, which leaves participation by Theberge unsettled.

The board didn’t take a vote on Reynolds because they will seek legal representation first.

According to the town website, there are 10 members, including two alternates positions that are vacant.

Prior to the vote, Theberge read her written statement on the allegations of bias. She defined it as being prejudice in favor or against one thing, person or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

Her position on the corridor was no secret when she was appointed to the Planning Board, she said. She was invited to join a town board multiple times by one selectperson during her involvement with petitions, she said.

“I have thousands of pages of documents, research and testimonies, and attendance at legislative hearings that I have filtered through to develop an informed and educated opinion on the corridor and its impacts,” she said.

Her letters and testimonies submitted by CMP as “proof of bias,” along with her questions regarding the corridor permit, she said, support she has researched pros and cons of the project; has read both CMP’s application and the town’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance; and has carefully considered the impacts of the project Jay’s streams and resource protection districts and limited residential districts.

She also hired at her expense a wetland scientist to walk through the areas of the corridor that would be impacted to gain better understanding of the features and function of wetlands in addition to her own walks in other parts of the corridor for her own understanding, she said.

“I have never used my position as a planning board member to leverage anyone’s opinion on the corridor,” Theberge said. She said she feels “very strongly” that she can separate her opinion on the corridor and her duties as board member during the decision-making process, she said.

Theberge said she will abide by the board’s decision.

Seven miles of the $1 billion hydropower transmission line would run through Jay. It will enter Maine in Beattie Township from Canada in northern Franklin County, and go through Somerset County to Lewiston in Androscoggin County. Six of the 38 single poles and three two-pole structures planned for Jay are governed by the town’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance.

The high-voltage line would connect with the New England power-grid in Lewiston to bring clean, renewable energy to Massachusetts consumers, according to CMP. The company has received some permits but not all it needs. The proposed corridor will go to a statewide vote in November.

The Jay board voted in February to table the shoreland permit application until CMP receives all its permits. They also asked for more information. Jay’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance outlines a timeline the board has to follow to accept the application as complete and to make a decision.

The next meeting is at 6 p.m. June 30 with the venue to be determined.


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