To the Editor:
I was surprised that the Islander would print Bar Harbor Town Manager Cornell Knight’s critique of me and never contact me for a response. Your reporter has my email address and cell phone number, yet made no attempt to achieve balance.
The result was an article that falsely claimed that I had promised Emera Maine that I would drop the appeal of its building permit for a huge substation on Woodbury Road once Emera obtained a building permit for its currently planned substation on Prospect Avenue. The article also incorrectly claimed that my clients, Don and Pat Murphy and Sam Dunlap, were residents of Town Hill.
First, on behalf of the Murphys who have appealed the issuance of a building permit to Emera for a Woodbury Road substation, I have repeatedly offered to drop the appeal once Emera formally surrenders its permit for Woodbury Road. I moved to delay the briefing schedule to give Emera time to assure itself that no appeal will be filed challenging the permit issued to it for a Prospect Avenue substation.
Emera’s lawyer, Ed Bearor, has been cautious and told me this summer that his client was not ready to surrender the Woodbury permit “at this time,” even though the 30-day appeal period to challenge the Prospect permit had expired. It was concerned about a late appeal.
Thus, having twice enlarged the briefing schedule for the Murphys, I judged that I could not extend the briefing period indefinitely and filed a timely brief on Aug. 17. Emera will shortly be moving to enlarge its briefing deadline. I suspect that once the transfer of Prospect is a done deal on Aug. 31 and actual construction has begun, so as to give Emera vested rights in the issued permit and a strong argument against a late appeal, we will reach the deal originally contemplated. Then the Murphys will drop their appeal, and Emera will surrender its permit. Both I and Bearor are doing what our clients expect: being cautious and prudent. Had I reneged on a promise, as Knight claimed, rest assured that Emera would be crying foul. It has not, and our relationship remains extremely cordial.
Second, the Murphys and Dunlap live just outside the Bar Harbor downtown in the Village Residential District, not in Town Hill. I am puzzled that the Islander cannot get these facts straight. It was their proximity to the planned Woodbury substation that gave them standing.
Finally, Knight should not be blaming me for the town’s legal fees. He must ask himself why he authorized Bernstein Shur to file multiple briefs that merely repeated the same arguments in Superior Court that Emera was making.
It would have been far more prudent for Knight to insist that Bernstein Shur file one-page briefs adopting by reference the brief filed by Emera. A careful town manager would let the developer defend its own permit.
Secondly, when Bernstein Shur incorrectly told the Town Council that it could delay placing citizen initiatives on the ballot until November, Knight should have insisted that the firm warranty its work and refund the monies spent unsuccessfully defending that firm’s incorrect advice. That approach would have saved the town all but a few thousand dollars in legal fees.
Emera’s decision to relocate the substation on Prospect should have been a financial windfall for the Town. It will be able to keep the substantial permit fees paid for each application although but one substation will be built. Sadly, the town has wasted that money and far more on legal fees. When a town the size of Bar Harbor averages $114,000 per year in legal fees over the last six years, it is clear that the Town Council and town manager have forgotten that their first duty is to the taxpayers, not their law firm.
Arthur J. Greif