A concrete slab and ice processor on Acadia Aqua Farms’ Trenton property. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MALACHY FLYNN

Appeal of Trenton permit denied



TRENTON — The Trenton Board of Appeals on Aug. 11 denied resident Linda Hodgkins’ appeal of Code Enforcement Officer Angie Chamberlain’s issuance of a building permit to Acadia Aqua Farms.

Hodgkins, whose property abuts that of Acadia Aqua Farms, filed an appeal on July 18 seeking to overturn the building permit Chamberlain gave to the farm on June 6 for a concrete slab. The slab was initially installed without a permit.

Hodgkins has long been opposed to the installation of this slab. It is within 100 feet of her property line, and in the rural development zoning district of Trenton, the side yard building setback is 100 feet.

In August of 2021, Acadia Aqua Farms installed an 8-foot-by-24-foot concrete slab on its lot without obtaining a building permit, but later applied for one after realizing the mistake. The slab was installed for the company’s industrial ice processor to sit on, which is essential for preserving the mussels it farms.

The permit was denied by the code enforcement officer because of the setback requirement, which the farm then appealed. The Board of Appeals found in favor of the code enforcement officer’s initial decision. The issue then went in front of the Select Board several times, where officials determined that this particular property actually has a 25-foot side setback instead of the normal 100 feet. This was a result of a waiver granted by the Planning Board when the de Koning family purchased the property in 2014, allowing them to build.

The land owned by Acadia Aqua Farms is a nonconforming lot. The plot is only 206 feet wide, meaning that if the ordinances were to be followed, buildings could only be constructed in the 6-foot gap between the 100-foot setback on either side, effectively rendering the land unusable and worthless.

Selectman Fred Ehrlenbach reviewed the property card that the town maintains, which showed that the side setback for the entire property is 25 feet due to the nonconformity. The slab meets this requirement as it is over 30 feet from the property line.

“He [Ehrlenbach] noticed that the property card that the town maintains had the 25-foot setback drawn the whole way back,” said Alex de Koning of Acadia Aqua Farms. “He recommended the board bring it back to the CEO, saying that they missed the 25-foot setback.”

The code enforcement officer issued the building permit after the Select Board determined that the slab was placed legally according to the 25-foot setback. This was well after the slab was installed, and Acadia Aqua Farms has since paid the fines for its violation and has come into compliance with the town.

“Three or four days after the Select Board remanded it back to the CEO we had the permits and paid the fines,” de Koning said.

Hodgkins maintains that the setback is 100 feet, and that the de Konings are in violation of the Land Use Ordinance. She maintains that only the building on the de Konings’ property, and nothing else, was granted a 25-foot setback.

She cites the 100-foot setback in the ordinance and the code enforcement officer’s original denial of the building permit. She also says she was not notified of the meetings when setback changes were made.

“The Planning Board then met in 2015 without public notice to create a waiver for the de Konings, in which they gave the de Konings a 25-foot setback for their building, as noted on the waiver,” Hodgkins said.

Board of Appeals Chairman John Pratt said the arguments that Hodgkins made in the appeal hearing did not apply to the appeal she had filed, and furthermore, that her appeal had nothing to do with rulings made by other boards.

“Any decisions made by any other board legally have nothing to do with her appeal,” Pratt said.

Pratt also responded to Hodgkins’ argument that the town did not properly notify her of past meetings regarding the de Konings’ property.

“Any citizen can come to any one of those meetings and see what’s going on,” Pratt said. “They can read the minutes of that week … there is a process for any citizen to come in and see what’s going on. You’re not being held out, or information is not being hidden to anybody.”

For the time being, the de Konings and Acadia Aqua Farms are in compliance with the town and are in the clear to continue running their business. Hodgkins has exhausted all opportunities to have her case heard by the town government, but the Board of Appeals informed her that she has the option to take the issue to court if she chooses.

“We do have the option of representing ourselves in court, and that may be an option we need to look at with our lawyer,” Hodgkins said.

Malachy Flynn

Reporter Malachy Flynn covers news on the Schoodic beat, which includes the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Sorrento, Sullivan, Trenton, Waltham, and Winter Harbor. He also reports on the town of Tremont on Mount Desert Island. He welcomes tips and suggestions about stories in the area. To contact Malachy with tips or questions, email him at [email protected].

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