SOUTHWEST HARBOR — In a unanimous decision regarding two appeals to a Main Street parking lot, members of the Board of Appeals decided the Planning Board did not properly review the lot’s compliance with the town’s land use ordinance is sending it back to that board for further review.
It was the second hearing for the two appeals to aspects of the parking lot constructed by John and Martha ‘Marty’ Williams last year. Members of the appeals board postponed the original hearing on the two issues in order to acquire a more accurate drawing of the finalized plan for the property approved by the Planning Board.
“We had to continue this meeting to get the right thing and still didn’t get them,” said Lunn Sawyer, chairman of the appeal board. “How is the code enforcement officer going to enforce something if even he doesn’t have the right documents.”
Both appeals are by neighbors of the property at 376 Main Street. One appeal filed by Jennifer and Jay Perruzzi, is appealing the use of 3 Rod Road, which runs along the south side of the property, as an entrance or exit to the commercial parking lot. There are three access points from the parking lot property onto 3 Rod Road, a private, residential road dating back to the formation of the town.
In the second appeal, neighbor Joel Wolak is questioning whether the buffer on the south side of the property, along 3 Rod Road, adequately meets the town’s ordinance standards for a level three, commercial property.
Member of the appeals board decided the two appeals were contingent upon one another in reviewing each one.
“We took these together,” said Michael Forbes, a member of the appeals board. “To say they’re intertwined is an understatement.”
Plans for the property have gone before the town’s planning board five times, four times last year and once this year. John Williams is a member of the planning board and has recused himself from deliberations each time the lot has been an agenda item.
During the most recent planning board meeting, there was debate among members of the planning board and the public regarding Williams’s legal use of 3 Rod Road as a right of way. With guidance from code enforcement officer John Larson, who cited a law case, the planning board stated they, a municipal board, did not have the authority to decide right of way as long as there is adequate documentation supporting it.
“They felt, presumably, that somehow that law case preempted them having any statement on it, but I don’t think it preempts the ordinance,” said John Izenour, a member of the appeals board. “Without making any determination about deeded right of way, ownership or any of that, or even the state standards, there are standards in the (town’s) ordinance.”
Wolak offered more than one aspect of the town’s land use ordinance that didn’t support the Planning Board’s approval to use the parking lot entrances onto 3 Rod Road.
“In the ordinance for access for all uses a vehicular way requires 20 feet,” Wolak said to the appeals board. “So, I don’t care if he’s allowed or not allowed. I’m just looking at the ordinance.
“That’s on page 35, road design standards — the right of way has to be 30 feet — the right of way is actually 25 feet,” he added. “The vehicular way is supposed to be 20 feet, it’s 15 feet.”
He then cited the ordinance for parking lot standards in which there can not be more than one entrance within 100 feet of road frontage.
“The distance between that generous entrance (on Main Street) and 3 Rod Road is not in excess of 100 feet,” said Wolak, whose appeal focused on the buffering plan.
When Ted Fletcher, a member of the appeals board, said he was unable to find in the Planning Board’s Jan. 2 minutes proof they had reviewed the buffering plan, Wolak said those plans were originally approved at the June 2019 meeting. There was a public hearing for amendments made to those plans in December.
“At that Dec. 19 meeting, Lee Worcester sat in that chair and it was determined there needed to be buffering because there wasn’t any,” said Jennifer Perruzzi to the appeals board. “It started out being a six-foot fence from the edge of Main Street all the way up the southern edge of John’s property.”
During the Jan. 2 meeting, members of the Planning Board allowed Williams to make changes to the buffering plan, including a gate at the first entrance off 3 Rod Road from Main Street.
“Then the board started making adjustments to that footage,” added Jennifer Perruzzi, “allowing for those entrances to temporarily stay open and not fenced … In reality this road should have been buffered from the beginning. That house was always a house just because someone wasn’t living there.”
After stating their findings of fact, the appeals board voted unanimously in favor of sending the two discrepancies back to the planning board.
“Obviously, we want to work with the planning board on this,” John Williams told the appeals board at the close of the meeting.