May 07, 2021

Planning board needs to account for actions

MACHIAS — The gaping hole dug Friday for Robert Carter’s expanded gun and sporting shop foundation is shallow compared to the hole dug by the Machias Planning Board over its handling of the proposal.

Few residents, including Machias Town Manager Chris Loughlin, knew until March 19 that additional riverside construction had been planned by Carter.

Planning Board members Charles Berry, Francis Schumann, George Thomas, Harold Stuart and Chairman Marc Nault received the proposal from Carter on March 7, but delayed a decision until Carter provided several additional measurements.

Loughlin was asked for a copy of the proposal and its drawings March 19. He searched the town office for a Planning Board informational file. None was found. The request for the information was the first hint Loughlin had that riverside construction was planned in the town.

Loughlin said the Planning Board did not provide him with a file and copies of pending actions. A file is sometimes available, but Nault had removed it earlier that day, he said.

When asked by Loughlin about the project, Nault explained that a decision would be made at a special Planning Board meeting March 28.

March 28 came and went without a meeting. It was canceled earlier that day, Nault said, because of lack of a quorum.

Yet, on April 2, Nault acknowledged that Carter’s proposal had been approved either March 28 or 29 by polling the other members of the board by phone.

Stuart, however, said he was never asked by Nault about the Carter proposal, although he said he would have voted in favor of it.

The Machias Planning Board meets on the first Wednesday of each month in a regular business session. Agendas are not prepared in advance of the meeting because, according to the board, it is not known until 4 p.m. on the day of the meeting what is scheduled.

East Machias planners have implemented a deadline system whereby those who want to have an application considered must have the request in the town office a week before the meeting. Chairman Rebecca Talbot issues an agenda to the media several days before the meeting.

The Machias Planning Board has been accused previously of quietly approving potentially controversial applications. Stuart acknowledged Monday that the board gathers informally between regular meetings.

In the case of the Carter riverside project, work was stopped, but only after the hole had been dug. Unless the DEP ordered the hole refilled, it was forced to ask Carter simply to elay further groundwork until after April 15.

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