Residents: Lawyer contradicted DEP letter

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Several citizens of Naples brought it to the attention of elected public officials that statements made by the town attorney in mid-July contradicted a letter dated December 2014.

The residents spoke on Aug. 10 during the bi-monthly Naples Board of Selectmen meeting; and they asked for an explanation of the contradiction.

Residents referred to a July 13 meeting, at which time Town Attorney Sally Daggett said that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and not the town’s code enforcement department, had recommended moving a home back from the high water mark to comply with the setback on the site plan as well as shoreland zoning laws.

The letter, which circulated around the meeting room last Monday, was written by DEP’s Mike Morse and addressed to Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak.

“While we feel that the town could legally pursue the relocation of the structure, the circumstances surrounding this matter have caused the department to conclude that it would not pursue separate enforcement action on the matter if the Town’s CA (contract agreement) allows the structure to remain,” Morse wrote.

The letter was written six months before a consent agreement ended up on the selectmen’s agenda.

The consent agreement, which came about after more than a year of negotiations, is between Naples’ property-owners Tim and Kerrie Slattery and the Town of Naples.

Nobody on the state or municipal level is asking for the newly constructed home to be moved back.

The house owned by the Slattery’s will stay on its foundation, where it now sits on the property off Long Lake.

In fact, the consent agreement that was signed by the Slattery’s in late July does not request that the home be moved at all.

On Aug. 10, what several citizens were calling into question was the contradiction between Daggett’s statement and the DEP letter.

Resident Jim Grattelo said, “Everyone was trying to blame the DEP that night, repeatedly. (Selectman) Kevin (Rogers) asked if we go back to DEP, and Sally Daggett said no,” Grattelo said.

He showed the board the letter, asking if they were aware of its existence. The board members remained silent.

Daggett said DEP advised moving the home so it matched the proper setback, while in comparison the town did not advocate for this action. Instead, as per the consent agreement, the Slattery’s would be required to remove the deck that hangs within the 100-foot boundary of the shoreland zone.

During the July 13 meeting, Daggett said if the Slatterys declined to sign the proposed consent agreement, “a court would find those terms to be fair and equitable.”

Marty Zartarian also spoke to the issue during the selectmen meeting on Aug. 10.

“We were led to believe, and it was stated several times at the July 13 meeting, that the DEP wanted the house moved past the 100-foot setback from the lake and the town’s compromise was to keep the house in the same location, to remove the porches, and include an extensive planting of new vegetation. However when we contacted the DEP on this matter we found that moving or altering the house is not the DEP’s position,” he said.

John Nostin brought the letter before the board, too.

“This was dated Dec. 11, 2014. The town attorney actually lied when she said the DEP wanted all these things done, when DEP didn’t,” Nostin said.

The following day, on Aug. 11, members of the community said their questions had not been sufficiently answered.

“Given the attached letter from Maine DEP to Ephrem dated 12/11/2014, and the (selectmen’s) acknowledged awareness of the letter at last night’s meeting, Attorney Daggett’s multiple assertions at the prior (selectmen’s) meeting that Maine DEP wanted the Slattery house moved, raises a whole host of concerns and questions,” resident Jim Turpin wrote in an e-mail addressed to Chairman Bob Caron II.

“Was Attorney Daggett deliberately lying or was she just misinformed? I have to assume the latter, which begs the questions by whom was she misinformed and why,” he said.

“Why did the selectmen or the town manager make no effort to correct Attorney Daggett’s incorrect assertions or lack of understanding of DEP’s position,” Turpin wrote.

A greater concern, Turpin said, was whether or not the Slatterys and their lawyer had that information prior to agreeing to the terms of the consent decree.

According to Naples Code Enforcement Officer Renee Carter, it was likely that Daggett was referring to correspondence with DEP from 2012, when the shoreland zoning violations were first made known to the state and the town.

Initially, the DEP recommended moving the home foundation back to the 91-foot mark, which was approved in site plan, instead of the 79-foot where it now sits, Carter said last week.

Moving the foundation would disturb the soil, doing more harm than good to the lake health, she said.

Her department advocated for removing the deck and replanting more vegetation to counter-balance the shoreland zoning violation that occurred from the home’s setback, she said.

Therefore, Morse wrote a new letter in 2014 to reflect and support the town’s decision.

On Monday, at a specially scheduled Naples Board of Selectmen meeting, Chairman Caron read from the letter to which Daggett referred.

The DEP letter is dated November 2012.

“Regarding the structure setback violation, clearly the town should require that the owner relocate the structure further back from the shoreline, at least in accordance with the site plan approved by the town,” Caron read from the DEP letter.

Morse’s letter also recommended “imposing a monetary penalty on the landowners in addition to the mitigation requirements.”

At the July 13 meeting, Daggett said that fines and penalties would be forgiven if the property owners completed the checklist.

Morse is the assistant shoreland zoning coordinator for a branch of the DEP, the Bureau of Land and Water Quality.

Daggett specializes as a land use and zoning attorney and is employed by the law firm, Jensen Baird Gardener & Henry.

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