Shoreland structures part of Acadia Road consent pact

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — When a property owner Gretchen Bufo decided to rebuild her second home located on Acadia Road in Casco, it triggered a request from the title company.

The title company requested a letter saying there would be no enforcement action on Shoreland Zoning Law violations for the pre-existing structures on the beach — a deck that sits about 25 feet from the water, a 6 by 22-foot dock and a retaining wall.

The lot is nonconforming with the road situated between the house and the waterfront structures, according to Casco Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Alex Sirois.

On Tuesday, the Casco Board of Selectmen reviewed, refined and signed a consent agreement between the town and the landowners.

Language was added to the boiler plate consent agreement to ensure a larger sundeck would not be built in the future.

Selectman Grant Plummer insisted that this be included the consent agreement.

“I want to make sure the existing deck will never get any bigger. I want to be able to say that that structure will never be expanded,” Plummer said. Throughout the discussion, he apologized to the property-owners, saying the town needed to make sure “all the I’s were dotted and all the T’s crossed.”

Casco Town Manager Dave Morton asked Plummer and the rest of the board, “Would you feel comfortable, if we put in another sentence — that the existing deck cannot be expanded?”

The board agreed.

Sirois said, “Grant, these are the situations that I deal with every day. The clearer, the better.”

The title company’s request is not the first time attention has been drawn to the lakeside property. Acadia Road is located near Camp Sunshine on Sebago Lake. The residential neighborhood is in a cove area of the lake.

“This one is notorious — it is very large. It is not a heavily-wooded area so it’s very obvious. I get questions about this one a lot,” Sirois said.

“The issue is that it predates the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance. If it was built in the last 10 years, it would be a different story,” he said.

According to a Maine government website, Maine’s Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act was passed by legislature in 1971.

According to Sirois, after looking at aerial photos dating back to 1998, the waterfront structures were already in existence. Then, in 2007, the code enforcement department issued a permit to repair one of the structures and put in a retaining wall.

By law, if that permit is not challenged, it stands, Sirois said, referring to a presentation by Town Attorney Natalie Burns.

He said aerial photos reveal the structures were in place in 1998. Earlier aerial photos are not on record. The bottom line: The structures in the shoreland zone were pre-existing.

The title company’s letter expressed concerns because those structures are illegal and nonconforming by current standards.

Responding to a question from a selectman, Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said, “The town can issue permits for decks and docks. The retaining wall needs permits from both” the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Town of Casco, he said.

“In the ‘60s and early ‘70s, there was no permit required,” he said.

“The fact that the town in 2007 issued a permit, acknowledged them to be a structure, basically legitimizes them,” Morton said.

Jay Staples who introduced himself as Bufo’s companion, provided the board with some background information.

“We bought the house three years ago. All the property that is being addressed tonight was already there. Our neighbor sold it to us,” Staples said.

The couple asked the previous owner if the permits were in order for the waterfront structures. The seller said he got permission from the DEP to do the wall, which keeps the soil from sliding into the lake.

“This is nothing we want to touch. We are happy with what is there,” Staples said.

“We tore down the camp and got the permits to build a new home,” he said, adding, “The title company is asking these questions.”

Sirois explained the building permit was “for 30 percent expansion.”

“And, they are moving it farther from the road [in order] to make that nonconforming structure more conforming,” he said.

In the landowner’s favor, the paperwork is all in order, Sirois said.

“They have a deed that gives them the right to this portion of common lands. They did show it on the survey. She is taxed for this land,” he said. “For tax purposes, it is one lot. For zoning, it is considered two separate lots.”

Morton talked about the issue of having a road in the middle of the parcel.

“The really frustrating thing is this is all on the opposite side of the road than the home they are trying to rebuild,” he said.

The title company’s request had put the home construction on hold with the contractors waiting for the go-ahead, according to Staples.

Morton said the consent agreement needed to be redone with the amendments — instead of having those penciled in. The landowner was allowed to have the documentation signed and notarized so the home upgrade could continue and so that she wouldn’t have to make an extra trip to Casco during her workweek. Morton said it was their responsibility to file a copy with the Registry of Deeds.

Also, it was verbalized she had no desire to sell the home in the future. The title company’s request was trying to avoid any snafus during future sales.

During the conversation, the board talked about nonconforming lots and preexisting structures in the Shoreland Zone as an issue throughout the town.

Selectman Plummer said, “History is teaching me a few lessons. I want to make sure we do this right. So, when these folk go to sell it, the next folks aren’t standing before us asking what this is about, and wanting to build a gazeebo.”

Peaslee addressed the CEO, saying, “This won’t be the last one we see.”

Sirois nodded.

“The days of ‘no action’ are done. It was the title company that said clear this up. We will see more.

“It’s not something to be afraid of. We will find out which ones are legally nonconforming and which ones are in violation.”

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