Lamoine selectmen to consider building height issue

LAMOINE — The Board of Appeals here has ruled that the height of a home under construction off Marlboro Beach Road wasn’t measured properly.

However, both how it should have been measured and what steps come next remain unclear. The issue is expected to be discussed at the next selectmen’s meeting at 7 p.m. on Nov. 21.

The issue surrounds a home owned by Thomas and Katherine True, which is being built on a site raised by fill overlooking the water. The house replaces a smaller cottage that has been removed.

In a March 18 letter, neighbor Alan Moldawer said he believes the height of the house exceeds the 35 feet allowed by local code. Code Enforcement Officer Rebecca Albright measured the building and issued a written decision April 3 saying the building was in compliance. Moldawer appealed her decision May 2.

Albright and Planning Board Chairman John Holt measured the building a second time after Moldawer’s appeal. Both times, they determined the building alone stands 28 feet 10 inches tall and the average height of the building, which is on a slope, plus the fill is 34 feet.

At an Oct. 29 Appeals Board meeting lasting three and a half hours, the board ruled that Albright did not correctly interpret the building height definition in the Building and Land Use Ordinance.

The ordinance states that building height is “the vertical distance between the highest point of the structure and the average final grade around the foundation, or the average grade of the original ground adjoining the building, whichever is greater.”

“[Albright] did not calculate the distance between the highest point on the structure to the original grade versus the highest point on the structure to the finished grade to determine if there was a difference,” the Appeals Board decision reads.

Hancock “Griff” Fenton, chairman of the Appeals Board, cast the only dissenting vote because, he said, the wording of the ordinance is unclear. He noted the difficulty in determining and measuring from the original grade of the property.

“So how can she [Albright] measure properly?” he asked.

The Trues contend the home is within the 35-foot height requirement at its current grade, according to a memo Albright issued April 12 and addressed “to whom it may concern.”

She followed up with a memo to the Board of Selectmen dated April 16.

“The definition of building height from the Building and Land Use Ordinance is vaguely written,” her memo says. “It has and can be interpreted two completely different ways.”

The memo goes on to say, “I will be asking the Planning Board to kindly rewrite this critical definition.”

Remedies are not outlined in the ordinance, so the selectmen will have to decide how to proceed, Fenton said. They may decide to do nothing. If the house is deemed to be too tall, they could force the Trues to lower it or issue fines, he said.

“They can do almost anything,” he said.

Johanna S. Billings

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Johanna S. Billings covers eastern Hancock County and western Washington County. An avid photographer, she lives in Steuben with her husband and several cats. She welcomes tips and story ideas. Email her at [email protected]

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