Casco Board set to sign shoreland violation consent agreement

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — The Casco Board of Selectmen is poised to sign a consent agreement between the town and an out-of-state landowner stemming from a shoreland zoning violation on Thompson Lake.

The shoreland zoning infraction has been the topic of discussion at three recent board meetings. On Oct. 23, the board received the legal document plus a landscape plan, which included the installation of phosphorous filtering gardens and the replanting of 40 to 60-foot trees on the waterfront parcel.

However, the selectmen decided to withhold their signatures until the Nov. 13 meeting. The delay will allow board members more time to look over the detailed landscape remediation plan as well as considering the recommended amount for a fine, which is $5,000.

It is up to the selectmen to decide on what amount to fine those property-owners who break shoreland zoning laws.

“The key point is the selectman wanted to take some time to look over the plan,” Casco Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Don Murphy said on Tuesday.

“Their only concern was about a clause to protect the land, not just the owner — if the land was sold within the year,” he said.

“It would not be unreasonable to have a ten-year cap, and that information would be registered on the deed. So, anyone thinking about buying the land would know,” Murphy said.

A clause, which guarantees successful replanting of vegetation and the continued growth of sizable trees, will be added to the landscape construction contract, he said.

Selectman Ray Grant had brought up the idea of a long-term warranty for the tree replanting.

“What if the trees that were over pruned were to die? I would like to see something about that, too,” Grant said.

Murphy said the previously hired contractor had pruned more than one-third of the height of the pine trees, but it appeared those evergreens would not die from having that extent of branches trimmed.

However, the landscaping plan includes additional tree re-plantings to compensate for the removal of pine limbs, which improved the view of the water, he said.

In mid-July, Murphy investigated the tree-cutting violation during a site walk. Casco’s CEO was accompanied by Michael Morse, the Regional Shoreland Zoning coordinator with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP.)

In September the landowner, Darren Ryan, hired the services of Roosevelt Trail Nursery and Garden Center, Inc., located in Windham.

“The replanting plan is integral,” Murphy said.

“It had to be a real plan, not something written on the back of an envelope,” he said.

“It was a very good plan, but I changed it. That first 25 feet to the shore is critical for processing phosphorous,” he said.

“We added something we cannot do with building permits. We cannot require homeowners to do something with the water that runs off the roof. We had the opportunity to build this into the plan,” Murphy explained.

Looking at the landscaping sketches, Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said, “Those aren’t just flower beds; those are functional filters.”

Murphy also addressed the fine amount and a payment schedule.

“Some towns have exorbitant fines; and some town have small fines,” he said.

The property owner “has already made a down payment to the landscaping firm. In discussions, with Natalie (Burns, town attorney) we agreed, ‘Let us do something right for the environment,’ ” Murphy said.

In an earlier discussion, Murphy revealed that Ryan would pay approximately $25,000 for the remedial landscaping.

“The owner said he could pay the fine by March 1. He pretty much emptied his checkbook with the landscaping costs so I thought March 1 was a reasonable date,” he said.

Selectman Grant Plummer said, “I want to say, ‘Thank you,’ to Mr. Ryan for acting cooperatively.”

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