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News Feature

Sedgwick
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, August 22, 2013
Settlement lays Patten property ordinance violations to rest
Two cabins to be demolished

by Anne Berleant

After nine hours of mediation on August 2, the Town of Sedgwick and Lee Patten, trustee of the Maine Trust, settled a five-year legal matter regarding the reconstruction of three cabins on the Patten property on Walker Pond that lie within the town’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance. The property was formerly a girls camp called Camp Four Winds.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Second Selectman Nelson Grindal at an August 14 public hearing convened on the consent agreement. But with the Pattens wanting to build a new home on the property, “this was just a thorn in their sides at this point. It was time to let it go.”

Grindal, Third Selectman Victor Smith and First Selectmen Neil Davis unanimously voted to accept the consent agreement that stipulated:

The Trust, owner of the land, would demolish two of the cabins—the Twister and Squall bunk houses—within 90 days after the Maine Department of Environmental Protection issues a permit to do so;

The Trust will apply for said permit within 14 days of the Selectmen’s final approval;

The Sedgwick Code Enforcement Officer will reissue a permit for renovation and expansion of the boathouse—which sits on the waters edge, is not over 50 percent damaged and will continue its current use—within 45 days of the agreement’s approval by selectmen;

Upon compliance with the terms of the agreement, the Town releases the Trust and its contractor, Robert Cote, “from any potential land use violations regarding the Twister and Squall bunk houses;” and

The Trust will pay the mediator’s fee up to $2,500.

The “elaborate foundations” on the two cabins to be demolished will be removed, said CEO Duane Ford, who will oversee the reclamation project.

The director’s cabin will be left to “let it melt away,” said Grindal, as tearing it down would disrupt vegetation.

“It’s collapsing in on itself,” said Fred Marston, chairman of the town’s Appeals Board that denied an appeal of the Maine Trust many years ago to rebuild the cabins.

Grindal said the case mediation fee does not exceed $2,500. However, the case itself has cost the town of Sedgwick in excess of $30,000 in legal fees over the course of many years.

The Patten property saga first began in October 2007 when the Trust, Lee Patten, trustee, applied to the planning board for permits to allow repair, renovation and expansion of buildings in the former Camp Four Winds on Walker Pond. The town’s assessment was that it could not permit the project, per §12.C.3 of the shoreland zoning ordinance, as three shoreline cabins were more than 50 percent damaged.

The Superior Court agreed, ruling in the town’s favor in Lee W. Patten, Trustee of the Maine Trust v. Town of Sedgwick (2010).

When work on the Twister and Squall cabins continued in violation of the ordinance and court ruling, and the town did not take action, Sedgwick CEO Duane Ford contacted the DEP, which sought the opinion of Maine’s Attorney General’s Office.

In September 2012, the AG office determined that the town must enforce its ordinance by issuing a notice of violation “and ultimately imposing a civil penalty of $100 to $2,500 per day the violation exists (§16.1.4). The violation notice need not be issued if the Pattens submitted a letter of intent to file a permit application to the planning board, at its October meeting, for the reconstruction of the nonconforming structures.” No permit application was received, and selectmen minutes show that negotiations between the town attorney and the Maine Trust continued until the consent agreement was drafted on August 2.

As the agreement releases the Maine Trust from violations, no civil penalty will be assessed.

“This [agreement] is the penalty,” said Grindal, who called the Pattens “good taxpayers for Sedgwick and Brooksville and upstanding citizens.”

Marston said the successful protection of the waterfront and compliance “with the basic law is our reward and the citizens’ reward.”

In other business, selectmen reported that Nicole Gray has been elected to the planning board to replace Steve Astbury, who had resigned. “The board’s in pretty good shape,” said Grindal.