TRENTON — A group of about 15 gathered Nov. 10 for a Planning Board meeting regarding the construction of a dock consisting of a permanent pier, seasonal ramp and float at Steve and Brenda Shelton’s shorefront home off the Bayside Road.
The board unanimously approved the project, which had already been approved by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Fred Ehrlenbach, who was in attendance as a community member but is also the town’s Select Board chairman, explained that the town does not have jurisdiction in the intertidal zone and is only permitting the construction in the upland zone.
Despite the approval from the federal agencies, and the finding that the project was in compliance with the town’s Land Use Ordinance, a group of property owners have been voicing their opposition to the proposed pier for months.
Nearby property owners, including those on Shady Nook Lane, collected 51 signatures on a petition that asked the DEP, town officials and the Planning Board to consider their concerns.
Those concerns include potential environmental issues and the impact the pier could have on “the area’s waterfront friendliness,” where property owners “regularly paddle to and tie up on their neighbors’ shores for visits” and walk along the shore.
Signers of the petition also raised the issue of recreational paddlers having to paddle farther out into the water to maneuver around the pier.
The petition cited the Hancock County court case Uliano v. Board of Environmental Protection, where the court upheld the DEP’s denial of a permit for construction of a pier in Salisbury Cove based on adverse aesthetic impacts.
At the Trenton meeting, Planning Board member Rick Sprague asked if compromises could be made “for the sake of the neighborhood.”
Tim Forrester, owner of Atlantic Environmental, LLC, and consultant for the Sheltons, said the applicants investigated alternatives for the DEP application as required, but that was not a requirement of the town’s application rules.
One of the alternatives considered was creating a temporary dock, but that would result in safety and accessibility issues.
He said that like many in the area, the Sheltons use a mooring, but are avid boaters and it is difficult at low tide to drag a skiff to the water.
Brenda Shelton said she has fallen on the seaweed-covered rocks on the shore when trying to get to the couple’s skiff and that she would like her mother, who is an amputee, to have access to the shore.
“I feel like [it’s] our right,” to always access the property, Brenda said. “We’re not trying to be invasive.”
Scott Markwood, who opposed the project, said that most of the nearby community was opposed.
Property owners Jim and Mary Turner asked the board to implement lighting and noise guidance, “since we’re not used to seeing anything out there.”
Another property owner, who said he was an abutter to the Sheltons, said, “I’ve never seen anybody use their boats as much as [the Sheltons] do,” and that he did not hear extra noise as a result.
Jake White, a second-generation fisherman, said he welcomed the pier, adding that more docks could be useful for fishermen to use when needed.
After the project was approved, Sprague said, “I do think the neighbors have raised a lot of valid points.”
Planning Board Vice Chairman Chuck Starr said the way for property owners to have their concerns addressed is to initiate a citizens’ petition with changes for the Land Use Ordinance to be voted on at Town Meeting. He encouraged property owners to do so.
In other business, the board voted to approve Mark Remick as its chairman. Former Chairman John Whetstone resigned in October, citing the position’s time commitment, and is now an alternate.