‘Little Mountain’ gets prelim okay

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

The Bridgton Planning Board gave preliminary approval Tuesday to 14 view lots on Little Mountain, providing the fire chief signs off on their decision.

It was unclear, however, whether Fire Chief Glen Garland would do so.

Garland met with Code Enforcement Officer Robbie Baker, Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz and developers of the Mountain View subdivision on Aug. 11, a week after serious questions were raised about the steep grades and non-conforming narrow roads proposed for the project at the board’s Aug. 2 meeting. Central Station District Chief Todd Perreault told the board on Aug. 2 that the chief wanted the project to conform to National Fire Protection Act codes, which require all subdivisions to be serviced by 60,000 gallons of water an hour in case of fire.

Without nearby hydrants, the only way such a water supply can be provided is either through storage tanks on site or mutual aid from neighboring towns. According to Baker, the developers maintained at the Aug. 11 meeting that a continuous water supply would be provided through mutual aid, with Bridgton fire trucks arriving in seven minutes and trucks from Harrison, Naples and Fryeburg in 10 minutes — thereby satisfying the NFPA requirement.

There were no minutes taken of the Aug. 11 meeting, and Garland did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, leaving the board in a position of basing its decision on what member Dee Miller referred to as “hearsay.” Baker said Berkowitz recalled estimating costs of $3 a gallon for a 60,000-gallon cistern in Gray, or $180,000 — a cost said to be unreasonable by Ed Rock, representing Mountain View landowners Chet and Shirley Homer, owners of Shawnee Peak.

Administrative Assistant Georgiann Fleck said Town Attorney Richard Spencer wrote a memo stating that a final decision to resolve the matter rested squarely with the board.

Board members Fred Packard and Roxanna Hagerman both agreed that with mutual aid, the fire safety requirement would be sufficient.

“It comes to a point of undue burden” on the developer, said Packard. Hagerman added that individual lot owners could choose to install private sprinkler systems in their homes if they wanted to. Packard also pointed out that Perreault “misspoke” at their last meeting when he said the town’s ladder truck could not make it up all of the hills in town from a dead stop.

Miller said she’d agree to the sufficiency of mutual aid as long as Garland signed off on it. She pointed out that the board relies on impact statements from department heads in making their decisions. Miller also took issue with a statement made at the last meeting by landscape architect William Conroy of Sebago Technics that it wouldn’t be “fair” to require Mountain Village to adhere to NFPA codes when there is nothing in the town’s site plan review rules requiring that they do so.

“Technology changes and we have to absorb those changes,” she said. “It’s a question of protection and responsibility. It’s very dangerous to begin talking about what’s fair.”

Packard said that houses built today are “far, far more fire-retardant” than they were years ago. “That buys a little more time for fire trucks,” he said. He also pointed out that Spencer advised the board that they have to enforce the town’s ordinances as written.

The steepest grade at Mountain Village would be 12% after the road curves sharply from its entrance on Route 302 and turns from gravel to pavement. The road would be 18-feet wide with two-foot shoulders and deeper-than-standard ditches in some places, and thus is non-conforming. Among conditions imposed by the board were that the road remain forever private and be maintained by the Homers or, in their absence, by Shawnee Peak Inc.

The subdivision of mostly five-acre house lots is planned for 70 acres where the Homers applied for a rock-crushing quarry permit two years ago. That application has not been formally withdrawn, and town rules do not require that it be withdrawn. “It’s completely up to the discretion of the applicant,” said Fleck, when questioned about the status of the quarry application by member Brian Thomas.

The board will consider final approval of the project at their next meeting on Sept. 6. Asked what would happen if Garland did not sign off on the fire protection, Miller said, “That’s what we need to know.”

Added Packard, “I hope we don’t have to cross that bridge.”

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