Justin McIver plans to build Hotel Bridgton on the Saunders Mill site and two adjacent parcels. File photo

 

BRIDGTON — The Save Kennard Street citizens group is appealing the decision to allow a 66-room hotel to be built in downtown Bridgton.

The Hotel Bridgton project, proposed by Justin McIver of Maine Eco Homes, was approved by the Planning Board June 10, and Save Kennard Street filed its appeal July 10.

The project has been a source of controversy in Bridgton. It took a year and a half of deliberations and contentious public hearings for the Planning Board to come to a decision. Some residents are upset about the hotel’s location, size and impact on the surrounding area while others are pleased with the project.

“We have quite a few points of appeal because they really screwed up,” said Cape Elizabeth attorney David Lourie, who represents Save Kennard Street.

The eight points of appeal, he said, address errors made by the Planning Board, some of which are “errors of law,” and some of which are “illogical.”

The project “failed to meet the ordinances,” agreed Doug Oakley, a Planning Board member who was recused from voting on the project because he openly opposed it, as a resident, when it was first proposed. “All of the errors that were made were pretty critical errors,” he said.

Lourie and Save Kennard Street say the project does not comply with ordinances, including required setbacks and stream protection provisions.

The group’s appeal will soon be reviewed by the town Appeals Board, which meets once a month. Lourie said appeals boards “seldom overrule Planning Boards,” but he feels the group has “at least a 50-50 shot.”

Oakley fears that “the Appeals Board may be politicized. It won’t judge (the project) impartially and will make a decision based on what they’re hearing from friends and neighbors about whether they want a hotel or not.”

If the Appeals Board does not overrule the Planning Board, Lourie said they would take the matter to Superior Court, where, he feels, “we’ve got a very strong case.”

Oakley agreed: “I’m confident that if it did go to court, the court would rule properly.”

Meanwhile, the residents of the Save Kennard Street group are on the hook for thousands of dollars worth of legal fees, Oakley said.

This process is “costing residents who can’t really afford this kind of battle thousands and thousands of dollars to try to save their little neighborhood. These people aren’t people of huge means, and it’s costing them a lot of money to try to fight huge development projects.”

Sue Hatch, a member of the Save Kennard Street group, said the cost has been “more than you want to pay at all.”

Still, she appreciates all of the support that the group has received from other residents, saying, “The people, they’ve been just wonderful. It’s all been very supportive.”

“We are optimistic that we’ve done all we can and we have real good facts, but you just don’t know what the outcome is until it happens. We’re hoping maybe it’ll be over after the Appeals Board,” she said. 

McIver could not be reached for comment.


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