WISCASSET — A Maine Department of Transportation plan to fix traffic on Route 1 has cleared another obstacle after dismissal by the Maine Judicial Branch’s Business and Consumer Court of a lawsuit against the project.

Wawenock LLC, and other enterprises owned by Ralph H. Doering and members of his family – represented by attorney Robert S. Hark – filed suit against the project, leveling nine separate allegations, including that the MDOT project violates Wiscasset’s comprehensive plan, historic preservation ordinance, and site plan review standards; failed to comply with state regulations; and that MDOT violated the plaintiff’s civil and constitutional right to due process in the project.

A Sept. 11 decision by Judge Richard Mulhern of the Business and Consumer Court found in favor of the state’s motion for judgment, dismissing all nine counts against MDOT.

“Plaintiffs have failed to state any claim for which this court may grant relief,” wrote Mulhern in his conclusion, even if all facts given by Doering were true.

His decision also cited the “doctrine of ripeness” as an important part of his decision in favor of MDOT.

“The doctrine of ripeness is meant to ‘prevent courts, through avoidance of premature adjudication, from entangling themselves in abstract disagreements (and) protect (administrative agencies from judicial interference until an administrative decision has been formalized and its effects felt in a concrete way by the challenging parties,’” wrote Mulhern.


Essentially, Doering’s objection to the MDOT process is not enough to merit court action until an administrative decision has been made. Until eminent domain is actually pursued, or a firm decision on the project has been made, a lawsuit doesn’t meet the “ripeness threshold.”

“Such an argument would allow any would-be plaintiff disgruntled with a state agency to make an impermissible end run around the ripeness doctrine,” wrote Mulhern. “State agencies and courts alike would find themselves bogged down in ‘process’ litigation before the process.”

Criticism of the project has expanded beyond Wiscasset residents. Maine Preservation, a statewide organization, included Wiscasset’s downtown on its Most Endangered Historic Places list, an annual accounting of historic places or structures that are in danger of being lost.

Maine Preservation’s listing cites on-street parking as “an integral part of the village’s historic setting,” and states the proposal to remove parking will have a “devastating impact on the viability of businesses.”

“Maine DOT appears to be alone in believing that parking causes the traffic problem in Wiscasset,” said a news release by Maine Preservation. “Yet, numerous studies in communities across the nation have proven that parking not located directly within downtown areas has a major negative impact on businesses.”

Maine DOT objected to its entry on the list, citing its history of working with communities.

“MaineDOT takes very seriously the consideration of impacts to historic places and properties in its decision making. Maine Preservation’s text regarding MaineDOT’s Wiscasset Downtown Route 1 project is very slanted and contains the same misleading information presented by those attempting to stall or stop the project,” said Ted Talbot, press secretary for MDOT. “Maine Preservation did not contact MaineDOT to obtain any facts or comment regarding the project; and they do not carry any authoritative, advisory or regulatory role in the review of MaineDOT projects.”

Despite the criticism, Talbot said MDOT plans on moving the project forward as scheduled in the coming weeks. “Things are on schedule. A preliminary public hearing is being planned around the first week of October,” he said.

The hearing will be the first opportunity for the public to get a look at the project’s proposed schedule.

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