Scheduling a date with a mediator for Long Lake clear-cut violation

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

NAPLES - The clear cutting that occurred in late March on the western shores of Long Lake, and violated the town’s shoreland ordinances became a hot issue in early spring when the Naples Board of Selectmen united in its vote to prosecute the violator to the fullest extent of the law.

But, six months later, recent mediation requirements have nearly frozen the momentum of going forward with the town’s intentions to fine the responsible party, Chase Custom Homes and Finance Incorporated, based in Windham.

According to Naples Code Enforcement Officer Boni Rickett, local residents and members of Lakes Environmental Association brought the issue to the town’s attention in April. Less than an acre had been clear cut on the waterfront property located on Long Lake, just south of Colonial Mast Campground.

The town ordinance states property-owners cannot clear more than 40 percent of trees on shoreland parcels, she said.

“Most people come into the office, look up the ordinance, and discuss it so they know what they are supposed to do,” Rickett said. “He didn’t leave any tree volume – it was a clear cut.”

Already, some re-planting of native trees has occurred, Rickett said, adding she will re-visit the site to make certain those trees are surviving. If the involved parties come to the agreement that more trees need to be planted to keep erosion at bay and return property to its original state, Rickett said she will oversee that process.

The town – not the state — will be the entity that fines the party responsible for improperly clearing trees on the shoreland property, Rickett said.

While newly planted trees attempt to take root and overwinter on the undeveloped property, town representatives are discussing dates for entering into a mediation process.

Most recently, board members had penciled in a date of Oct. 29, but John Chase’s legal representative notified the town with a cancelation of that morning meeting.

During a recent selectmen meeting, Naples Town Manager Derik Goodine said it had been recommended that the town first seek mediation with Chase properties.

Goodine said he was guessing the reason parties were being encouraged to initially use a mediator was “because there’s such a back log of cases. This is probably to alleviate the stress on the court system.”

On Nov. 1, once again, the selectmen were turning the pages in their calendars looking for an open date that everyone had in common. Goodine rattled off a list of days in December that he had coordinated with the professional mediator and Chase’s attorney.

At first, Chairman Dana Watson named some dates he would be out of town. Then, he realized Goodine was a month ahead.

“How’d we get to December? We haven’t even looked at November,” Watson said.

Goodine said the professional mediator, a former judge, wouldn’t be available until the final month of 2010. He said he wanted at least two selectmen to commit to being present at the town office during the day, and other board members could be contacted via conference phone during “vital junctures” in the mediation process.

“I need a couple of warm bodies to make the phone calls to other selectmen,” he said.

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