Planners recuse member for Hotel Bridgton deliberations

Doug Oakley

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

When Hotel Bridgton was first proposed, Doug Oakley was one of several residents who was vocal and openly opposed to the project.

While a long recess occurred and the developer, Justin McIver of Main Eco Homes, revised the project, Oakley was elected as an alternate to the Bridgton Planning Board.

Last week, Hotel Bridgton was back on the planning board docket. Before the hearing resumed, the board faced the question of whether to recuse Oakley from the review process.

In a letter to planners, attorney Alyssa Tibbetts (representing McIver) called into question Oakley’s ability to be impartial based on previous public comments.

Maine Municipal Association informed the board that members could decide if a “potential of bias” due to “state of mind” or “personal bias” exists, and vote to recuse a member.

Planner Deb Brusini asked Oakley if, prior to being elected, whether he was involved with a group of people — Save Kennard Street — concerned about the hotel project.

Oakley admitted he did attend get togethers organized by the group, but since being elected, he has refrained.

While Oakley feels he could be “fair and impartial” during the fact-finding review process, he also did not want to create an “appearance of impropriety” or “compromise the integrity of the board.”

Planner Dee Miller says each member brings a certain point of view to deliberation, and noted she has been “outspoken” at times.

Planners voted 3–2 to recuse Oakley. Voting to recuse was Chairman Steve Collins along with Deb Brusini and Cathy Pinkham. Voting against were Dee Miller and Ken Gibbs.

Oakley will no longer sit at the board’s table during Hotel Bridgton discussions, but can take part in discussions in a citizen’s role.

The board has another alternate, Diane Paul, who can fill in if a regular member is unavailable to vote. Paul was in attendance at last week’s and Tuesday’s hearings, and while not a voting member since all regulars were there, she is allowed to ask questions of the applicant.

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