Harpswell selectmen stay out of dock dispute

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HARPSWELL — The Board of Selectmen took no action Sept. 4 on a request to reconsider approval of a wharf at the center of a dispute between two Gun Point neighbors. 

Selectmen voted unanimously to leave the matter, after more than an hour of comments from people on both sides of the dispute. 

Bill and Joyce Kelley last month asked the board to consider ordering removal of a wharf installed by their neighbors, Sean McCormack and Martha Brant. They claimed the wharf was installed contrary to plans approved by the board and obstructed navigation near their own float. 

Specifically, the Kelleys maintained McCormack and Brant had installed their wharf 99 feet away from theirs, instead of the 110 feet approved by selectmen.

The 99-foot measurement was taken by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection during a site visit in July, but it is one of a handful of conflicting readings. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for example, measured a distance of about 105 feet between the two docks, and others measured 102 and 104 feet, according to Joe LeBlanc, the contractor who installed it. 

Even at 99 feet, the “minor discrepancy” would not result in a serious impact to navigation and “the situation simply does not rise to the level of requiring strict compliance with the permit,” state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho said in a Sept. 2 letter to the Kelleys.

The wharf application approved by selectmen earlier this year approved a distance of 110 feet “plus or minus” between the two wharfs, an ambiguous measurement that suggested some leeway in the distance. 

John Loyd, an attorney representing McCormack and Brant, said the variation is necessary, considering changes in tides and wind direction that could alter the space between the two docks. 

Moreover, the town “has no idea” of the variation from dimensions provided in 27 out of the 50 wharves the board approved with a “plus or minus” caveat on the application, Loyd said. 

“It seems to me it’s unfair to all of a sudden say ‘now because there’s a differential on this one, we’re going to make them yank their wharf,’ when you have no idea if all of them, or 10 percent of them or 20 percent of them have the same problem,” he added.  

Although the Kelleys claimed their ability to navigate in the area was hindered by the new wharf, particularly at low tide, Harbor Master Jim Hays and Selectman Kevin Johnson reported moving around the area in their own craft at low tide without difficulty.

“I don’t see the problem with navigation,” Johnson said. “There’s plenty of room.”

Selectmen decided voted unanimously not to take any action. 

Selectman Elinor Multer, however, suggested that that Hays and Code Enforcement Officer Bill Wells look into coming up with a standard to define the “plus or minus” variance for wharf installations.

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcoast.

Sidebar Elements

Lookout Point clean-up planned

HARPSWELL — An environmental engineering firm intends to begin clean-up of a polluted portion of town-owned land on Lookout Point later this month.

In a Sept. 4 presentation to the Board of Selectmen, John Cressey of CES Inc. said the company determined that excavating and removing contaminated soil from the property is the safest and most cost-effective form of remediation.

The town completed its purchase of the 6,000-square-foot waterfront property from Dain Allen in June. It plans to use the property to expand public access to the adjacent town boat launch.

The only thing standing in the way of the plan is the petroleum-contaminated parcel in the southwest corner of the property.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection will provide funding to cover the remediation through its Voluntary Response Action Program. According to Cressey, the clean-up is expected to cost $8,700.

CES contractors will dig up and haul away about 50 yards of polluted soil, then smooth over the surface and seed and mulch the area to restore it, Cressey said.

There is a Sept. 29 deadline for public comment on the proposal, and CES plans to begin work shortly thereafter, Cressey said. The entire remediation plan is expected to take less than two days.

If the property isn’t cleaned up to the DEP’s satisfaction by Nov. 1, it will revert to Allen’s ownership.

— Peter L. McGuire