Red barn restaurant deal hung up over sewer use

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton resident and downtown business landlord Chuck Renneker speaks his mind, often as not critically, when it comes to the way Bridgton town government operates.

But most times, it’s nothing personal. As selectmen on Tuesday discussed better ways of tracking use of the downtown sewer system, however, Renneker said he felt he was being singled out unfairly. He owns a large red barn on Depot Street that he wants to lease to a major restaurant, he said.

There’s a potential for a major restaurant going in there, which would certainly change the whole night scene in Bridgton,” Renneker said. “I have a husband and wife ready for a handshake, who have extensive background, who’ve opened many restaurants, then sell them and open more,” he said, without naming names. The couple is enthusiastic, “because of their love of Bridgton and what they see as a business opportunity.”

But, Renneker said, he can’t get to the project approval stage, and thus the contract stage, without first securing a sewer allocation. For months, the request has been held up, in part by Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz’s uncertainty over whether the state Department of Environmental Protection would allow any new demands to be placed on the system before its weaknesses have been identified and repaired. After a lengthy discussion, Selectmen did end up approving the 2,460 gallon per day allocation request, however, clearing the way for a final project approval from the Bridgton Planning Board.

Initially, the board wanted to impose a condition on approval, which would require Renneker to pay the allocation fee within 60 days following the project’s final approval by the planning board. Members were concerned about holding up future allocation requests should Renneker’s project not happen. Currently, Bridgton’s Sewer Ordinance requires that the allocation be purchased within two years. 
Renneker said only 35% of the allocations that the town has granted for the system have actually been used; the rest are simply owned by the property owners. And the town hasn’t figured out what to do about that yet.

“I feel like this has become a political nightmare, and I have been singled out,” Renneker said. “We need a major rework of the sewer ordinance.”


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