MOUNT DESERT — A local stand-up paddleboarding instructor is challenging the town’s refusal to allow him to use public property at Pond’s End, on Pretty Marsh Road at Long Pond, to meet clients and launch paddleboards.
Code Enforcement Officer Kim Keene has said that because Chris Strout’s Acadia Stand Up Paddleboarding LLC is a for-profit enterprise, it cannot operate in the town’s resource protection zoning district, which includes Pond’s End.
Another business, National Park Canoe & Kayak Rental, has access to Pond’s End. Strout said he understands that this is because its use of the lakeshore is grandfathered; it existed prior to the adoption of an amendment to the town’s land use zoning ordinance (LUZO).
At the 2010 town meeting, residents voted to amend the LUZO to comply with new shoreland zoning standards mandated by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Keene said that vote changed the zoning designation of Pond’s End from shoreland residential to resource protection “due to the protected freshwater wetland and inland wildlife wading bird habitat within that area.”
Strout originally contacted Keene in March 2012 to inquire about a permit to use Pond’s End for his paddleboarding business. Keene consulted the legal services department of the Maine Municipal Association (MMA). But she did not get a definitive ruling from MMA attorney Susanne Pilgrim. Pilgrim agreed that the proposed use “sounds like” a commercial activity, which the ordinance does not allow.
However, she said in an email to Keene, “The loading and unloading of boats alone seems like something that any member of the public is allowed to do. If that was the only activity that he conducted at that landing, I was trying to determine if that would warrant a permit or not.”
Subsequently, in April 2012, Keene told Strout in an email that he could not use Pond’s End “because you are performing the activity for profit or a fee.”
Strout responded that, “Although I can respect this interpretation, my lawyer and I disagree.” He pointed out that the ordinance allows “uses similar to permitted uses.”
Keene once again asked Pilgrim, the MMA attorney, for an opinion based on her reading of the town’s ordinance. Pilgrim again said it wasn’t clear cut.
“It sounds like the applicant proposes only to meet clients at the site and unload boards and use them there,” she wrote. “Although this is a commercial activity for profit, I am having a hard time distinguishing the land use impacts of the activity from nearly identical activity by the public using the site.”
However, because of the for-profit nature of the activity, Keene again denied Strout’s request to use the land at Pond’s End for his business.
Now, three years later, Strout is asking for reconsideration.
On March 16, Keene asked the MMA for guidance. Attorney Pilgrim responded two days later with an email in which she said, “I think the opinion I gave in 2012 continues to be an accurate reflection of how I interpret the ordinance.”
Last week, Strout sent an email to Town Manager Durlin Lunt.
“You will see that the (MMA) attorney very clearly agrees with my assessment that I should be granted use under the category ‘uses similar to permitted uses,’” he wrote.
“Since the opinion of the (MMA) legal counsel and Ms. Keene very obviously disagree, I would appreciate the opportunity to present my case to the board of selectmen ….”
However, it is the town’s zoning board of appeals, not the selectmen, that hears challenges to decisions made by the code enforcement officer.
Strout has a permit from Acadia National Park to launch stand-up paddleboards at Ikes Point on Echo Lake.