KENNEBUNKPORT — About a dozen residents voiced their opposition to a proposed reconstructed grist mill and museum at a special Planning Board meeting on Wednesday. The public hearing was continued to the next Planning Board meeting to allow the Kennebunkport Land Trust to offer a rebuttal to issues raised by the opposition, after which both sides will be asked to prepare their findings of fact.

The Grist Mill was a historic structure that stood on Mill Lane in Kennebunkport since the 18th century, until it burned down in 1994. The Land Trust purchased the property in 2006 and, in 2010, began to apply for permits from the state and federal governments to reconstruct the structure as it stood. As a grist mill (used for grinding grain) which is powered by the tides, it would be the only such working mill in North America. The Trust has said they will reconstruct the mill using historic timber and hold events related to the building’s charter as a “river heritage educational center.”

Abutters allege that the project will cause severe strain on the noise levels and character of the residential neighborhoods on North and West Streets near Grist Mill Pond, and would negatively impact property values.

The boathouse has previously served as a storage facility for the Trust, and since the purchase of the grist mill property, opponents say that the area is not zoned for a museum as the Trust is proposing.

Residents from North and West streets spoke for about three hours, on Wednesday night, on these and a myriad of other concerns about the property. Allison Daniels of West Street said that, while she admired many of the projects the Trust had managed beforehand, she opposed the grist mill project.

“The replica will be a major tourism destination,” Daniels said. “I won’t detail all my concerns, but noise is my particular concern. We are asked to preserve it all. There are few open spaces where people can arrive casually with kayaks ”¦ unload and put in on the Kennebunk River. Please let us use our wise land use regulations.”

Nina Pearlmutter read a letter at the podium from former Brick Store Museum archivist Rosalind Magnuson who accused the board of not caring about the abutters.

“When did the desire to attract still more tourists to Kennebunkport take precedence over the residents who live there?” Magnuson wrote.

Pearlmutter also raised concerns about the grist mill damming up a tidal zone, which she said could cause a negative impact to the food chain and tidal ecosystem.

In a letter to the Planning Board, Amy Tchao of Drummond Woodsum, who served as legal council for the town, responded to concerns raised by both the Land Trust and abutters opposed to the project, who are represented by attorney John Bannon. Tchao said it was the Planning Board’s responsibility to determine if prior approval the board gave the Trust matched what is considered a museum under the ordinance.

“I think that, at least legally speaking, you should interpret your ordinance ”¦ to permitted uses in the village residential zone,” Tchao said.

The Planning Board will meet next on Aug. 5.



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