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

BRIDGTON — After hours of deliberation over the Hotel Bridgton project last week, the Appeals Board delayed making its final decision until Nov. 6.

The 66-room hotel, to be built on the Saunders Mill site and two adjacent parcels on Bacon and Kennard streets, was approved by the Planning Board in June. A citizens group called Save Kennard Street filed its appeal July 10.

The project, proposed by Justin McIver of Maine Eco Homes, has been a source of controversy. 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 welcome the project as-is.

David Lourie, a Cape Elizabeth attorney representing the Save Kennard Street group, said the Planning Board failed to accurately adhere to the town’s stream protection and site plan ordinances.

The Planning Board, I think, got lost among the trees and worn down by the continual changes in this project,” he said. 

Mark Bower of law firm Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry, who is representing McIver, contended that the “continual changes” were “made in response to comments made by the public and the Planning Board. We shouldn’t criticize the developer for listening to the public and responding to feedback.”

He said his opponents were “playing fast and loose with the ordinance language.”

The issue for you,” Bower told the board “is whether the Planning Board committed any errors of law, abused its discretion in any way or made findings that are not supported by substantial evidence in the record.”

The group Save Kennard Street asserts, among other items of contention, that the hotel’s size and scale are not compatible with the surrounding area, that the project’s stormwater management plan is in error and that the proposed storm drains and electrical lines are not essential services.

Although Lourie stressed his concerns about the stream protection and site plan ordinances, Board Chairman John Schuettinger said those problems were “minutiae.”

“I really think the big issue that we’re really struggling with is whether or not this project is appropriate for that place,” Schuettinger said.

Attorney Jim Katsiaficas of Perkins Thompson, representing the town, reminded the board throughout the meeting that its job was to decide whether the Planning Board made an error in approving the project, not to decide on the project itself.

He said he would prepare a draft decision for the board summarizing what had been discussed.

“We’ll meet again on (Nov. 6), go through it item by item and make a decision,” he said.

Board Vice Chairman Mark Harmon felt that delaying the decision was “a waste of time” and wanted to vote that night. 

“I know what we talked about tonight. Let’s do it and get it over with,” he said.

We don’t want to rush to judgment,” Schuettinger said. “We aren’t supposed to be deciding this on how we feel. What we’re going to vote on is whether the Planning Board made an error.”

The Board voted 4-1, with Harmon against, to continue the discussion at 5 p.m. on Nov. 6.

Comments are not available on this story.