Brunswick coastal project begins, despite deal to stop work

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BRUNSWICK — Town councilors thought they’d reached an amicable resolution Monday in a dispute over the town’s role in allowing a coastal stabilization project on Miller Point.

But things blew up Tuesday evening when neighbor Richard Knox, of Simpson’s Point Road, sent photos to town councilors and staff of work being done on the property without authorization.

“This is not what I expected,” Council Chairwoman Sarah Brayman said Wednesday.

The project first came to the council’s attention March 7, when Knox and other neighbors claimed the town had failed in its oversight of the project by not requiring local permits.

Town Attorney Stephen Langsdorf later found that Brunswick’s ordinances regulating such work were out of compliance with state law.

As a compromise, the council unanimously passed a motion Monday night that said the landowners, Robert and Nancy King, would agree to improve the design of their earth stabilization project and have it verified by a professional engineer.

Councilors believed the bulk of the project work, which includes regrading an eroding slope and stabilizing it with “rip rap” boulders, would be put on hold until an engineer chosen by the town and the Kings approved the final plans.

“I thought we had a clear path forward,” said Councilor Steve Walker, who sponsored the motion.

But the photos provided by Knox show about a 45-foot strip of graded slope with rip rap installed. The project will eventually affect 625 feet of shoreline.

Walker immediately sent an email to property owner Rob King Tuesday night.

“I came away from last night feeling really positive,” he wrote. “I am a bit confused because I thought that we had agreed on a path forward.”

King, who traveled to Brunswick for Monday’s meeting from his home in Short Hills, New Jersey, was not in town Tuesday when the work took place. He told Walker he “feared” his contractor, Linkel Construction, “got carried away.”

In a phone interview Wednesday morning, project agent Joe LeBlanc said the work started because he and his team received verbal permission from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Marine Resources.

The state agencies had extended the project’s work window, he said, which had previously only been through March. “I think we did the right thing,” he said. “We had permission to do it.”

But later in the morning, King sent an email to the Town Council saying LeBlanc hadn’t been authorized to do the work.

He said he told LeBlanc to do some additional site clearing, and once the DEP window was extended, “we would then have further discussions with the Town about how to move forward.”

“I can’t tell you how frustrated and upset I am that they did what they did,” he said. “I apologize for this problem and will do what I can to rectify it.”

Town Manager John Eldridge on Wednesday said work has now stopped. While he said the town is still working with the Kings toward an agreement that includes engineering oversight, “what happened yesterday set everybody back quite a bit.”

“As long as the work stops … we’ll keep working on the agreement,” he said. “That’s what we thought was supposed to happen (in the first place).”

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Brunswick town councilors and staff received photographs Tuesday of stabilization beginning at Miller Point, despite a pending agreement with the town to temporarily stop work.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.