North Berwick Board Narrowly Approves Seaplane Ramp on Bauneg Beg Pond
July 09, 2010 -
NORTH BERWICK -- The Planning Board granted a local couple a conditional use permit Thursday for a controversial seaplane landing ramp on Bauneg Beg Pond.
The board voted 3-2 to grant Wayne and Anne Whitten permission to use a 14-foot by 16-foot ramp near their waterfront property. The couple recently built the ramp without obtaining a proper permit, an action for which they have not been fined.
Board Chairman Todd Hoffman, member Barry Chase and alternate member Patrick Raftery voted in favor of the permit, while members Julie Fernee and Shaun DeWolf voted against the motion. Raftery was given a vote on the motion because regular board member Chris Karcher was absent at Thursday's meeting.
Hoffman, Chase and Raftery said they voted in favor of the permit because the board has no authority when it comes to regulating the use of seaplanes, boats and other vehicles in the water, but rather docks, wharfs, piers and other structures.
Hoffman said as long as the Whittens adhere to local and state ordinances as well as conditions of the permit, they may use their ramp. The conditions of the permit are as follows:
Close off the ramp area (which is currently damaged due to weather conditions) with yellow caution tape until Nov. 30, 2010. Hoffman said this is to prevent individuals using a nearby beach area from walking around the ramp area in order to prevent additional harm to surrounding wildlife and shoreline because the area is in "a damaged state."
The permitted structure must be removed from the water from Nov. 30 to May 1 and stored upon one of the Whittens other three permanent waterfront structures.
No commercial use of the permitted structure is allowed.
The decision came two weeks after a verbal dogfight erupted at a June 25 board meeting because of the ramp. Hoffman frequently had to referee the meeting because residents were interrupting each other, complaining about how the ramp would adversely affect local wildlife, add noise and devalue property assessments.
The issue prompted members of the Planning Board to walk the area of the ramp on June 28. Hoffman said Thursday he saw "no evidence of clear-cutting" or of a "preexisting structure" at the site, although there is "a cleared path" down to the water. He said these factors also contributed to his decision about the permit.
Thursday's two-hour meeting was more tame than the June 25 meeting, although multiple residents claimed Anne Whitten, a former selectman, and her husband plan to use the ramp for commercial purposes, not just personal recreation.
"We just know what's happening there," said one woman, referring to an online advertisement allegedly posted by the Whittens offering professional seaplane repair services at the ramp.
Fernee said one reason she chose not to vote in favor of the permit was because of the strong opposition expressed by the public during recent meetings.
"I have no good feeling about it," she said. "I don't know. I don't know what other thing is making them so angry other than another ramp in the water."
Wayne Whitten said he owns a seaplane he parks on the pond and occasionally repairs others' craft. Whitten has another, permanent ramp on his property, as well as two ramps in Sanford.
He said the new, temporary ramp would be used mostly by a friend to park his seaplane, and wouldn't be used for a personal maintenance business.
There were several individuals whom publicly expressed displeasure with the board's decision Thursday, to which Hoffman replied the decision "doesn't stop here."
Residents can choose to take the issue to the Zoning Board of Appeals, he said, and if that body "isn't sympathetic" to their concerns there are higher authoritative bodies that can also intervene and overturn the Planning Board's decision.
One woman said she has sworn affidavits about business conducted at the Whittens' new ramp, and said she plans to pursue the issue further with other governing bodies.
by Kyle Stucker, Fosters Daily Democrat, July 9, 2010
Lakes: Bauneg Beg Pond
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