NORTH BERWICK –  In Wayne Whitten’s world, a seaplane is a thing of beauty.

“How can you not like a seaplane?” he asks.

But to his neighbors on Bauneg Beg Pond, the planes that dock at his waterfront property are dangerous, noisy and bad for their property values.

The Planning Board got a taste Monday night of just how contentious the issue of adding a seaplane ramp has become, as board members, Whitten and his neighbors toured the site where Whitten wants to open his fifth ramp.

Whitten needs a conditional use permit from the town to create a second seaplane ramp on the North Berwick side of his property on West First Street.

He already has three ramps and a seaplane repair hangar on the Sanford side of his land. About half the pond is in Sanford and half is in North Berwick.

Further complicating the matter is the fact that Whitten cleared a waterfront site and installed a new ramp recently without town permits.

After neighbors complained at the Planning Board’s meeting Thursday, the board decided to walk the site.

“It was a good site walk. It clarified several issues for us,” board Chairman Todd Hoffman said Monday night, without elaborating on what that meant.

Before anyone can clear land in a shoreland zone, they must get a town permit, Hoffman said. Whitten failed to do that.

Bauneg Beg Pond is narrow and long — about 1.5 miles — with an estimated 200 seasonal and year-round homes. There is a lot of boat traffic on the pond.

Whitten said his neighbors are mistaken when they call his Bauneg Beg Seaplane Base an airport. Planes come and go, often for weeks at a time. But he said he won’t accept fees for landings or for repairs.

“It’s a hobby. That’s all this is,” Whitten said. “It’s fun to do. This whole place is one big hobby.”

Bauneg Beg Seaplane Base is registered with the Maine Department of Transportation and is described in the Water Landing Directory of the Seaplane Pilots Association.

“I can’t stop anyone from landing here,” Whitten said, “because these are Maine state waters.”

Neighbors had plenty to say about Whitten’s plans before and during the site walk.

They say Whitten wants to expand his operation to accommodate as many as nine seaplanes.

“We’re living on a runway,” said Jane Barnum, who lives next door to Whitten. “We are living on an airport.”

Ina Brother and her husband, Ernie Santosuosso, said they are worried about the safety of swimmers.

Brother pointed out that Camp Waban, a camp for children and adults with special needs, is “right next door” to Whitten’s property. “The kids swim, boat and fish in the lake,” she said. “This is a family-oriented area.”

Noise is another issue.

“One plane taking off is a pain in the butt, it makes you deaf. But nine planes I can’t imagine what that would be like,” said Paulette Harper, who has lived on Bauneg Beg Pond with her husband, Dave, for 13 years.

Hoffman said the Planning Board will consider Whitten’s application for the new ramp at its next meeting, at 6:30 p.m. July 8 at Town Hall.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]