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Gravel pit owners fined, offer donation
POLAND — A gravel pit on Whalesback Drive continues to be a source of controversy, as neighboring resident Michelle Arsenault attempts to block local business owners Peter Bolduc and Cyndi Robbins from gaining a commercial license.
Bolduc, who is a town selectman, and Robbins, who owns Cyndi's Dockside and the Poland Spring Resort, were fined a total of $300 for continuing to operate for two days beyond a cease-work order issued by the town. The amount represents an escalating fine, which cost the owners $100 for the first day, and $200 for the second day.
In addition to the fine, Robbins made a $2,000 donation to the town's Winter Wellness charitable fund in the name of Whaleback Road residents, in a demonstration of sympathy to the noise complaints that Arsenault had raised.
"The owners of the pit did some soul searching as to where the blame lies for this terrible mix up that caused Michelle and the residents of Whalesback the grief that it did," said Town Manager Dana Lee.
According to Lee, the donation represented an acknowledgement of the 20 days that the gravel pit was illegally operated. The operation was stopped after a letter surfaced that showed that Robbins and Bolduc had failed to respond to an order to appear before the Planning Board to get permission to work the pit.
"She made a donation for the 20 days that they operated illegally," said Lee. "Cindy subsequently made a donation on behalf of Michelle and the [residents] ... she made a donation of $2,000 in their name to apologize to them as best she could for having screwed this up."
The town's winter wellness fund is used "to help our poorest folks with their heating needs through the winter," said Lee.
The donation was initially to have been made in the name of Arsenault, but she declined.
"If I was to accept, that would be like saying that what they did there was right," said Arsenault.
"She declined and said it's more appropriately in all of our names down in Whalesback who had to tolerate this, although no one else has complained," said Lee.
Arsenault maintains that the letter from the Planning Board to Bolduc, which was filed in July, proves that there is something more than absentmindedness going on.
"They are all telling me that none of them remembered about the letter?" said Arsenault. "The Planning Board, the Code Enforcement Officer, her assistant, the Town Manager and Peter Bolduc. ... what are the chances?"
The gravel pit has already claimed a victim, in the form of a resignation of Planning Board Chair Chuck Finger from the town's Community and Economic Development Committee (CEDC), where he was also chair.
"I have gone back to my original role, which was the liaison of the Planning Board to the CEDC," said Finger. "I'm still on the committee, and I'm still the liaison. I've always been the liaison."
Finger said that his original appointment to the chair of the CEDC was by default.
"Since nobody stepped up and took the chairmanship, I stepped in and took it," said Finger, "because nobody wanted to do it."
Finger stepped down after the town consulted with a lawyer to review whether the dual appointments could be considered a conflict of interest, after Arsenault initiated an examination of the matter.
"Chuck maintains, and I agree with Chuck, that he has always worn those hats very, very carefully, and has not done anything wrong ... but the appearance was bad," said Lee.
The town has asked an attorney to review all of the town's positions, and to recommend a consistent policy to avoid such situations in the future. Lee says that the move demonstrates that the town is going above and beyond the call of duty.
"So we have taken measures that go beyond this case, and to look at all of Poland's issues that may be similar, to resolve all of them," said Lee. "Will this happen again with Chuck? No. He stepped down in deference to her complaint."
Finger was unwilling to go into detail about the discussion surrounding his resignation, which happened during a closed-door, executive session meeting.
"What happens in executive session stays in executive session," said Finger.
Bolduc and Robbins, operating as "Safari Sand and Gravel, LLC," are moving forward with plans to expand the gravel pit into a commercial operation.
Finger says that the town will approve the pit's operation only if it is legal to do so.
"If it fits in the CLUC [Comprehensive Land Use Code], if it works, then it will get approved," said Finger, "and then we'll put it out for third-party review, like we do with every other commercial project, and then we'll see where it goes."
Lee said that garnering approval for the pit involves jumping through lots of hoops.
"It's quite a job to license a pit," said Lee.
Arsenault has already raised one objection to the process. As an abutter of the pit, she received a notice of intent to submit a sketch plan with the town's Planning Board.
Arsenault found that the listing of lots on which work might be done was inaccurate. The plan made reference to four lots, including 6D, but lot 6D is actually across the road and up the hill from the work. Lot 6C should have been included, but was not.
"It has the wrong lot number on it," said Arsenault. "Even the sketch plan has the wrong lot number on it. ... The paper ... was not legal. The public was misinformed."
Arsenault says that the paperwork should have to be resubmitted, with the lots correctly identified, which would be likely to delay the process by a couple of weeks.
Lee says that the work would not be held up for a clerical error of this magnitude.
"It was a very simple typo," said Lee. "Everything else in the application was proper."
Lee says that the town contacted a third-party planning group representative, Bob Faunce, to ask whether the gaffe should hold up the process.
"He said absolutely not," said Lee.