Cohen appointed to Board of Appeals 

TREMONT — Second time is a charm for Richard Cohen when it comes to being appointed to the Board of Appeals. 

After voting 4-1 against his appointment to the board during an Aug. 2 meeting, Select Board members approved his appointment by a vote of 3-2, with McKenzie Jewett and Howard ‘Howdy’ Goodwin in opposition. 

According to his application to the board, Cohen is more than qualified to serve on the town’s volunteer board. He worked in the New Jersey law circuit, 11 years as an appellate judge, for at least three decades. When he asked Select Board members at the end of the Aug. 2 meeting why they didn’t appoint him, no one offered an answer. 

At the meeting on Monday, Select Board member Eric Eaton asked Cohen why he wanted to serve on the board.  

“I like the idea of being able to contribute to the town,” he answered. “My experience over 40 years can contribute. I think I can be helpful.” 

Chairman Jamie Thurlow then made a motion to appoint Cohen. After it was seconded by Select Board member Kevin Buck, Eaton offered some comments. 

“There seems to be some controversy around this,” he said. “Why can’t we have the alternate fill in on the board until the controversy dies down? Most of the controversy here is that we want to see multiple candidates.” 

David ‘Jed’ Campbell was appointed as the board’s alternate during the Aug. 2 meeting. Members of the Board of Appeals only meet on an as-needed basis when an appeal to a decision made by a town authority or board is filed. 

One woman asked Select Board members why they didn’t just appoint Cohen. 

“If we need people to run for our various boards and we have a candidate who has applied, what is the struggle if you have a qualified applicant before you?”  

Brett Witham, a member of the town’s Planning Board, spoke up from the back of the room where several attendees of the meeting were standing. 

“We need to appoint people who have a clean slate,” he said. “What I saw in the press is a very clear bias where Mr. Cohen has spoken against the Acadia Wilderness campground.” 

Town Attorney James Collier recommended the Select Board limit public comment. “The discussion should be kept amongst the board.” 

Cohen was given the opportunity to speak on behalf of Witham’s comment.  

“I spoke out at a meeting,” he said. “When I heard the campground was going to be reduced, I stopped speaking against it.” 

Town officials received more than 100 letters after an application for a 154-site campground went before the Planning Board in February. Most of those were in opposition to what one member of the board said was the largest development to go before the town, as far as he could remember. There were some letters in support of the project, one from recently appointed Planning Board member Beth Gott.  

“If those who are hesitant to vote for me because they think I’ve made up my mind, they’re wrong,” said Cohen. “I spent four or five decades making up my mind only after all the facts are in.” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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