Board of Appeals decides to let neighbors work things out

SOUTHWEST HARBOR  Members of the town’s Board of Appeals decided to let neighbors who appealed a Planning Board decision regarding the parking lot at 376 Main Street work out their grievances with the lot’s owner. 

Following three hours of discussion regarding two appeals filed by neighbors on the north and south side of the parking lot, members of the appeals board unanimously voted in favor of continuing the appeal for no more than 90 days in hopes the problems can be worked out during that time. 

This was at least the fifth appeal regarding the parking lot to come before the board in the last two years. Previous appeals focused on lighting, commercial use of 3 Rod Road and adequate buffering of the property.  

Both appeals before the board at the Jan. 20 meeting were based on decisions made by the Planning Board at its Nov. 5 meeting. Neighbor Joel Wolak, who lives on the north side of the parking lot and filed a previous appeal regarding buffering on the property, was back before the Board of Appeals because of what he says is still an incomplete plan for the parking lot.  

“I need a complete plan, as anybody would, so if there are future changes, I would have something to reference,” Wolak said in his presentation to the Board of Appeals.  

A previous appeal regarding buffering on the property was remanded back to the Planning Board for further review. There was confusion about what the Planning Board was supposed to review and several different plans for the property. At that point, the Board of Appeals voted to table its decision until a complete plan was presented.  

“In the previous appeal, it was noted the collection of buffering documents that were submitted during the past year plus couldn’t be put together in a coherent way where you guys were able to understand it and say, in the record there’s a buffering plan that has been approved and can be used to enforce further actions,” Wolak further explained. “In the November meeting, one additional document was submitted – that document in itself didn’t meet the requirements in the ordinance for a buffering document … It’s not clear.” 

Also before the Board of Appeals was an appeal from the neighbors on the south side of the parking lot, J. Craig Raisner and Leeann Rhoades. Their appeal was based on buffering, or the lack thereof, for an entrance into the parking lot located across from their home on 3 Rod Road.  

“Current use of the entrance is, and has been, used for parking spaces,” Raisner wrote in the application for the appeal. “The current 3-foot gate does nothing to buffer our kitchen, dining room and living room from parking lot activity… The parking lot has two other entrance options onto 3 Rod Road farther west and an entrance directly behind the entrance in question onto Main Street. Therefore, this first entrance onto 3 Rod Road is unnecessary.” 

Ted Fletcher, a member of the Board of Appeals said the plan from the Nov. 5 Planning Board meeting “really provides the least amount of detail on buffering.” 

He then addressed parking lot owner, John Williams, who is a member of the Planning Board but who has recused himself from all conversations and decisions regarding the project.  

“It seems like you go through this process and you provide less detail and less information as you go along on the theory that will help you get through this gauntlet,” said Fletcher. “It’s unfortunate that we’ve had to go back and forth on this over the course of two years. I’m not sure that’s healthy for the town.” 

In response, Williams said he would work with the neighbors.  

“At [house number] [on] 3 Rod Road I will install a higher fence,” he said. “I’m not giving up that exit, but I will put in a 6-foot fence.  

“We’ll have to figure it out in a way where somebody’s not going to come through that gate and get smashed by a car coming down 3 Rod Road.” 

In their final approved motion, members of the Planning Board voted to “continue the appeal for no more than 90 days with a limited remand to the Planning Board for consideration of an agreement between” the parties involved for consideration of an agreement on an amended plan.  

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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