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County sheriff now involved in gravel dispute
POLAND — A battle over a gravel pit on Whalesback Drive in Poland reached a new low this week, as local business owners Peter Bolduc and Cyndi Robbins filed paperwork to prevent gravel pit neighbor Michelle Arsenault from trespassing on any of their seven properties.
Arsenault responded by initiating identical paperwork against Robbins and Bolduc.
Deputy Dennis Sampson of the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Department served a "notice to refrain from contact" warning to Arsenault on January 14. Earlier that day, Arsenault had visited the old Poland Spring Motor Lodge, which owner Robbins has begun to renovate.
Arsenault says that her visit to the Motor Lodge shouldn't be considered as grounds for legal action.
"I haven't been in contact with them. I haven't harassed anybody," said Arsenault. "I was invited in, and I asked questions, they answered them, and I said 'okay, thank you. No one asked me to leave."
Bolduc confirms that the visit is what caused them to initiate the paperwork.
"Michelle showed up unannounced, uninvited on the job site where they're doing renovations to one of the hotels, and started interrupting the workforce, asking them all sorts of questions about permits," said Bolduc.
Lieutenant Glenn Holt says that any citizen has the right to initiate such paperwork.
"She had a warning issued to her not to go on their property, which they have a right to do," he said. "It has nothing to do with harassment."
The warning is different from a protection order, which has to go through a judge. "Generally, if someone asks for a criminal trespass warning to be issued, that's what we issue," said Holt. "It's a verbal warning that says, 'dont go on their property,' end of story."
Arsenault says that her motivations in the dispute are pure.
"It kind of took on a life of its own. I want them to follow proper procedure in this town for everybody's benefit. Not just for mine," said Arsenault. "... I know I can't stop what's going to happen, because it's been a pit for so long. What I'm trying to do is make them follow correct procedures. I want honesty. I want everything done the way it should be done, and it's not. "
Bolduc says that it was time for him to do something about Arsenault, who he characterized as a "psycho on a crusade" and "an absolute crazy."
"At some point in time, you have to draw a line in the sand, or the gravel pit, and say enough is enough," said Bolduc. "No crimes against humanity have taken place. No dastardly deeds have been done. There's no grassy knoll theory here."
Bolduc says that Arsenault's complaints have cost him, and the town, money.
"We as a society bend to the will of the one," said Bolduc. "She has sucked up more administrative time for the town of Poland. She's sucked up more of our time."
Arsenault, on the other hand, says that Bolduc and Robbins are the ones costing the taxpayers money, in the form of the legal action against her.
The dispute between Arsenault and the pit owners began when a third-party company began crushing gravel early in the morning, waking Arsenault.
She began investigating the pit, and demanded that it be closed down because it had not been properly permitted, a charge that was eventually proven to be true.
A cease-work order was filed by the town after a letter came to light.
Bolduc says that, after Arsenault began making noise, he was the one who opened a file on the pit and found the missing letter, written in July, asking Robbins to come before the Planning Board.
"The minute I found that letter, I did an 'oh s___!'," said Bolduc. "Because Cyndi Robbins is not the kind of person who would ignore a letter like that, and neither am I. ... Apparently at some point in time, Cyndi put that letter on my desk. That letter ended up in a file. It wasn't intentionally ignored, and the minute I found it, I declared that letter."
Bolduc said that he immediately shared the letter with Robbins, the town, and the Planning Board.
"Before that letter came to light, we have documentation [from the town] that says we were good to go, that we had a clear path to operate that pit," said Bolduc.
Robbins made a charitable donation of $2,000 in the name of the residents of Whalseback Drive, as a way to apologize for the 20 days of illegal operation in the pit.
Ironically, the complaints by Arsenault, and the subsequent permitting process, have led Bolduc and Robbins to pursue commercial licensing of the pit, rather than a smaller personal-use operation.
"If we're going to go through that formal process, we're going to open it up and sell aggregate. That was not the intended use," said Bolduc. "The intended use was to use it for our own projects."
Arsenault says that she plans to abide by the paperwork, and has canceled her plans to participate in a site walk held by the town on the property.
"Next Saturday, they're having a site walk, and it was open to the public," said Arsenault. "Now I can't go and watch and see what their findings are."
Arsenault has been restricted from visiting the Poland Spring Motor Inn, the Poland Spring Resort, the driving range, Cyndi's Dockside, and the gravel pit next to her home.
Holt says that the order is good for up to a year.