Power plan faces permitting appeal

BAR HARBOR — Emera Maine’s plans to build a half-acre size electrical substation off Woodbury Road should never have been approved by the town, according to an appeal filed June 6.

Speaking through their attorney James Collier, Arata Drive residents Donald and Patricia Murphy claim that code enforcement officer Angela Chamberlain was wrong to permit the project because land-use rules make no allowance for power substation construction in their Village Residential (VR) zoning district.

“In the VR District, there is no use allowed that even remotely resembles the building of a substation of the scale proposed by Emera Maine,” the appeal reads. “For example, uses like homes, schools and parks are allowed throughout this district, and along Routes 3 and 233 slightly more intensive uses like bed and breakfasts, art galleries, farmers’ markets and museums are allowed after the scrutiny of full site plan review….Plainly, an industrial use like a large electrical substation is not a use that is intended to be located in the VR district.”

In the face of vocal neighborhood protest, Emera officials already have said that they intend to find another location for the substation. If after an exhaustive search they cannot find a suitable site, they will modify the current plans. But they also have said they intend to hold onto their building permit for the time being. The appeal seeks to have that building permit revoked.

Under land use rules, activities not specifically allowed in a zoning district are to be considered prohibited. Because the VR zone does not expressly allow for power substations, the application should have been denied, the Murphy’s appeal states.

The justification behind the town’s approval, however, came from a portion of the zoning rules that allows certain activities in the VR district without a permit, including “activities necessary for managing/protecting land; filling/earthmoving activity of less than 16 cubic yards; forest management activities except timber harvesting; non-intensive recreation uses not requiring structures; public utility installation.”

Chamberlain said Tuesday via email that as a public utility installation, the substation did not need a permit. She asked Emera to apply for one, however, because all other structures in town need a building permit, she said.

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Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]
Robert Levin

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