Sebago Cove property owner asks for audience with selectman

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

NAPLES — Responding to a January deadline involving a Sebago Cove tree-cutting violation that happened two months ago, the Naples Board of Selectmen agreed to meet in executive session this week to discuss options with the town attorney.

On Monday, Gordan MacNevin, the owner of a waterfront parcel located off Beach Road, drove from Woburn, Mass., to ask the board to resolve this incident as quickly as possible. This was his second trip to speak before selectmen; and both times because Town Attorney Geoff Hole was unavailable, the board decided it was most prudent to refrain from any official action.

“I don’t know where I stand right now. I truly don’t think I did anything wrong,” MacNevin said of the removal of 47 trees to put in the septic system on his non-conforming sized lot. “I would just like to build a small house on the property. I want to bring my two children here to enjoy the lake.”

“Excuse me for being emotional. But, this is ruining my life,” he said, the frustration transforming the tone of his voice.

Based on Monday night’s comments, the board seemed to sympathize with MacNevin’s urgency, and was willing to meet again before the town’s attorney went on vacation on Jan. 17.

“We can’t make a thoughtful decision until we have all the facts,” Selectman Christine Powers said. “It certainly wouldn’t set a precedent to hold a meeting on another night than our regularly scheduled Mondays.”

The deadline that urged the board to act quickly had been brought up earlier in the discussion.

“We are running out of time to appeal,” MacNevin’s lawyer, Dawn Dyer, Esq. had told the board. Her client received the notice of the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance violation on Dec. 24, which gave her until Jan. 24 to file a case with the Maine Superior Court. Dyer did not want the deadline to pass for her to rule out or move forward with that option.

“My only option is to go to Superior Court, which is really expensive,” MacNevin said.

He explained he purchased for $200,000 the undeveloped parcel situated along Muddy River, with a beachfront access to Sebago Cove. Since he became aware of the tree-clearing violation, he has spent additional fees to hire a landscape architect to submit a restoration plan as well as seeking the counsel of a Windham-based lawyer.

“The potential fines are $2,500 a day. I am not sure from what point those fines start, and that frightens me,” MacNevin said, adding he didn’t have that kind of money considering the investments he has already made toward purchasing and developing the property.

“I can’t build on that property. It (the ordinance) takes away from my property. I really don’t think that’s the spirit of the ordinance — to not let me build,” he said.

Dyer said after a brief discussion with Hole, the main gist of her argument would be a different interpretation of what constitutes 40 percent of the lot. She said since the 100-foot setback from the high water mark is off limits to tree removal (with the exception of a six-foot wide foot path) that area should not count toward the percentage of the entire lot. Dyer said the ordinance could be read in such a way.

“It sounds like now you are challenging the ordinance,” Selectman Rick Paraschak said.

Dyer said she was “outlining her position.”

According to the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance, not more than 40 percent of the total volume of trees can be removed over a 10-year period. When considering the percentage of trees on a parcel, only trees with a diameter of at least 4-inches at the base and a height of at least four feet are considered.

In addition to adhering to this ordinance, landowners must also follow a second ordinance that prohibits removing trees on more than 25 percent of the lot or 10,000-square feet, whichever is greater. That ordinance is worded so that landowners are legally required to go with the smaller space when it comes to tree removal – 25 percent of total lot size or 10,000 square feet.

According to property tax records, MacNevin’s lot size is 4/10 acre, or 17,424-square feet.

Code Enforcement Officer Boni Rickett estimated that 6,900-square feet of the lot had trees removed. She did a site walk after the cutting occurred.

At a Dec. 13 selectmen meeting, Rickett said about 90 percent of the tree volume had been removed.

At Monday’s meeting, immediately after MacNevin said the incident could cause him financial ruin, and court might be the only route left if the board couldn’t hear his side of the story sooner than Jan. 24, Paraschak calmly responded.

“I’m positive that you would like to settle this without going to court,” Paraschak said.

Please follow and like us: