LINCOLN, Maine – A McGregor Road resident has until late next week to develop a plan to correct environmental issues on her property or she could face fines of as much as $2,500 a day, a town official said Tuesday.
Zenda Fiske of 216 McGregor Road clear-cut at least eight healthy trees from her property along Upper Coldstream Pond late last month, town Zoning Enforcement Officer Jerry Davis said.
The removal was in blatant violation of Maine Department of Environmental Protection regulations requiring that setbacks from shorelines to buildings remain untouched except for dead or dying trees, Davis said.
“It’s a huge violation. She said that she thought the trees were dying because she saw ants on them,” Davis said Tuesday. “They were actually very healthy trees, perfectly good. There wasn’t anything wrong with them.”
Fiske has an unlisted or disconnected telephone number and could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
A flood of 14 telephone calls from nearby residents, a camp owners association, and other residents who heard of the tree-felling alerted Davis to the problem, he said.
“They were wondering what I was doing about it,” Davis said. “It was a pretty obvious violation and lots of times we have to tell people no, that they can’t cut down trees on their [shoreline] properties. When you do that and they see somebody else cutting them down, they wonder why they can’t do it.”
Backed by DEP officials, Davis used photographs he took five years ago of the shoreline and visited the property to prove that the trees had been cut illegally, he said. The photos are kept in a database used by town officials for precisely that purpose, Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said.
The trees and other vegetation are regulated by state law because the growth helps keep the water free of pollutants. Setback maintenance is crucial to maintaining the quality of water in lakes, Davis said.
“It’s the last line of protection from phosphates and sulfates getting into the water,” Davis said.
Under state law, residents have 15 days to correct or provide a plan for correcting violations or they could face fines of $100 to $2,500 a day, and civil court action, Davis said.
The remedy to the loss of trees, Davis said, is replanting. To quickly achieve the redress of the loss of trees, some decades old, often several trees have to be planted. Fiske might have to plant several trees for each one lost, he said.
The law might seem harsh or unduly restrictive, but Davis and other town officials work with owners of shoreline properties to educate and advise them as to what trees and other vegetation may be removed without violating state laws.
He will be speaking to the Upper- and Lower Coldstream Pond Camp Owners Association on that topic in a few weeks, Davis said. Anyone who has violations to report or seeks advice may telephone him at 794-3372.