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

BRIDGTON — Developer Justin McIver is taking his Hotel Bridgton project to Cumberland County Superior Court after the Bridgton Appeals Board voted Nov. 6 to reverse the Planning Board’s approval of the hotel.

McIver’s attorney, Mark Bower of law firm Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry, filed an appeal Dec. 20.

After a year and a half of deliberations and contentious public hearings, the Planning Board approved the 66-room Hotel Bridgton in June 2019, a 15,355-square-foot project to be built on the Saunders Mill site and two adjacent parcels on Bacon and Kennard streets. Some residents are upset about the hotel’s size and location between a neighborhood and Main Street while others welcome the project.

A citizens’ group called Save Kennard Street filed an appeal of the Planning Board’s decision in July 2019. Appeals Board members reviewed Save Kennard Street’s eight points of appeal and voted to sustain the Planning Board’s decision on five of those points and to reverse its decision on the other three, ultimately voting 4-1 to reverse the decision and, in effect, kill the project.

The Appeals Board contended that the hotel’s size and scale are not compatible with the surrounding area, the approval of the stormwater management plan in the stream protection district was in error and that the Planning Board erred in considering storm drains and electrical lines to be essential services. 

In his complaint, Bower appeals those three points, saying that the Appeals Board incorrectly interpreted the term “vicinity” when determining whether the project is compatible with the surrounding area. He further argues that when the Appeals Board considered a submerged drain pipe a structure, which is prohibited in the stream protection district, it incorrectly interpreted the term “structure.” He also states that the Appeals Board incorrectly interpreted the term “essential services” when it voted that a drain pipe and electrical lines were not essential services.

Bower’s appeal contends that the Appeals Board’s decision “contains errors of law, is not supported by substantial evidence on the record, was influenced by bias on the part of the Board of Appeals and contains an abuse of discretion.”

“The Planning Board spent about 18 months with this application,” Bower said in an interview. “They came up with a thorough and well-thought-out decision. We believe the court will agree that was the right decision.”

We’ve doing everything 100 percent right here. We felt the Planning Board definitely acted neutral and there was no bias and they made the right decision approving this project,” McIver said. “When you know you’ve done everything right, it’s easy to feel good about it.” 

Bower predicted that it will take six months for the court to reach a decision. It could reinstate the Planning Board’s decision, uphold the Appeals Board’s reversal or send it back down for further proceedings. What that might entail would depend on the court’s decision.

David Lourie, an attorney representing members of the Save Kennard Street group, said the court will review the Planning Board’s decision, not the Appeals Board’s decision, and decide whether there are errors of law in it.

Lourie said he felt confident since “the case seems very clear to me.”

Yet, he added, “I’ve lost cases I’ve had great confidence in in the past. You never know what’s going to happen.” 

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