NEW GLOUCESTER — The Planning Board has approved a site plan for a contentious seven-slip dock, part of the Sabbathday Shores subdivision.

Developer Allen Hamilton received final approval for his seven-lot subdivision in November 2017. He then approached the board in April 2019 asking for a change of use along the lake from passive to active recreation, which was granted 5-0.

The town has no definition for active or passive recreation, but Town Planner Scott Hastings explained at an April 2 public hearing that in his interpretation, “The difference between active and passive was substantial improvement of the land. A dock is a structure, so therefore it’s an improvement to the land.”

After active use was granted in April, Hamilton asked for the installation of a 60-foot-long, seven-slip dock, to be used by the seven homes in the subdivision.

The board held multiple public hearings about the dock, as well as a site walk on June 12, and granted approval 4-0 on June 18, with Ben Tettlebaum abstaining.

At the meeting, board member Doug McAtee said, “I think (the dock) is similar to everything that’s out there. It fits right in.”

Board member Charles Burnham agreed: “From an erosion standpoint, I’d say the further the better in terms of keeping the boats off the shoreline,” he said. “I think the design, the location, the placement and the function of it are the most appropriate for the protection of natural resources, the water body, the subsurface area.”

The dock has generated much discussion, with many residents speaking about their concerns regarding environmental deterioration, the changing character of the lake and the dock’s size.

One of the biggest sources of debate is the dock’s association with a subdivision rather than a with a single family.

In an interview, Hastings said, “It’s possibly the first (dock), certainly the first in recent memory, that is not on a single-family lot. It’s connected to the subdivision on the other side of the road (and shared) across seven house lots. That’s a new thing for the lake.”

At the April 2 meeting, Hamilton said, “All we’re trying to do is put a dock in just like everybody else has on the lake. All we want is to put a dock in for these folks so they can enjoy it too.”

Another topic of debate is the dock’s size, which is 60 feet long with a 10-foot ramp.

Hastings clarified in an interview that “there’s a few other 60-plus docks on the lake, and one that’s possibly 80 feet. So (this one) is not alone (in its size).” 

At the April meeting, 18 people spoke against the change of use from passive to active and one spoke in favor.

John Salisbury worried the character of the lake may change, saying, “Seven slips would definitely destroy the character along that beach.”

Paula Gauthier had environmental concerns: “This beach area has an active stream that goes into the lake and that makes that piece of property environmentally sensitive.”

Cheryl McKinnon was more blunt, saying, “If you can’t enjoy the lake when you’re swimming or kayaking or canoeing, you’re just not trying very hard. “

At the June 4 public hearing, 14 people spoke against the dock and one spoke in favor of it.

Laurie Fowler had concerns about the safety of children swimming in the area, while Patricia Morris took issue with the size of the dock.

Judy Wallace added, “That’s going to be a very busy beach area. There is no access for an emergency vehicle to get down there if there were an accident. I think it’s a very high safety risk.”

Brian Shedlarski supported the dock, saying, “I think that utilizing a dock in this nature and this design is clustering boats and limiting the development’s impact.”

Hamilton said June 4, “I will listen to the board and try with great effort to work with you through this. I do want to work with the board, of course, and my neighbors. “

When the board approved the dock June 18, Board Chairman Don Libby said that the process has made clear that the board should work on some ordinance changes regarding docks, marinas, moorings and other related issues.

Our ordinances are not perfect by any means. Ordinances change over a period of time. (This application) brought forth some stuff that we need to work on. It is going to be a long process,” he said.

Hamilton said in an interview that the subdivision is currently being built, with two lots already sold and one for sale.

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