BAR HARBOR — A two-year battle over a building permit for an electrical substation on Woodbury Road appears to be wrapping up. Attorneys for residents Donal and Patricia Murphy, Emera Maine and the town have mutually agreed to dismiss an appeal to the Maine Supreme Court.
Emera recently began construction of a substation at another site, on Prospect Avenue. The site was supported by a community advisory group convened by Emera as opposition to the initial site grew last year, but the power company technically still holds a building permit for the Woodbury Road site as well.
Attorney Arthur Greif, who has represented the Murphys and fellow plaintiff Paula Moody in this case, said he wanted to wait to drop the appeal until there was a binding commitment from Emera to surrender their permit for the Woodbury site.
The permit is still on file with the town, however.
A final missing piece is a formal complaint, filed by a group of 37 residents with the Maine Public Utilities Commission in May of 2014, challenging the location and design of the substation.
“I’ve got a copy of the letter that will be sent to the town of Bar Harbor the moment the PUC dismisses the complaint,” Greif said Tuesday. The letter asks for the permit to be withdrawn.
A motion to dismiss the PUC complaint was filed Monday, according to Emera project manager Kendra Overlock. “We’ve worked with the group of stakeholders, including a number of folks who were involved in the complaint. We believe we’ve addressed the concerns, and we jointly asked the PUC to dismiss the complaint.”
Overlock and Greif said a decision from the PUC is expected soon.
Emera (formerly Bangor Hydro Electric) purchased the 3-acre Woodbury Road parcel in 2011. In the winter of 2013-2014, they obtained permits for the project from the town and the state. Company officials said that they went door to door in the neighborhood to inform neighbors in the fall of 2013. Fifteen abutting landowners were notified of the project by mail. The Murphys’ property is nearby but does not abut the lot directly, so they did not receive one of the notices. The town issued a building permit for the substation in December 2013.
The Murphys were away between December and May and noticed the lot had been cleared and heard about the planned substation when they returned. They appealed the building permit June 6, 2014, to the town Zoning Board of Appeals, according to court documents. However, that appeal was filed outside the 30-day window.
The Murphys and Moody brought a civil suit in Superior Court asking that their appeal to the board be allowed to proceed. Justice William Stokes denied the appeal in February of this year. It was that decision that was to be appealed to the Maine Supreme Court, until the recent agreement to dismiss.