June 22, 2018
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Action on liquor license delayed

An aerial view of the the Surprenant family's property (bottom half of photo) in Chesuncook. According to a recent survey, the disputed road runs through the edge of the Surprenant property. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS)
By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Piscataquis County commissioners delayed action Tuesday on a liquor license requested by the owners of a hotel in remote Chesuncook Township.

Luisa and David Surprenant of Chesuncook LLC, owner of the Chesuncook Lake House and Cabins, submitted an application to sell malt and wine at their hotel in Chesuncook Township, part of Maine’s vast Unorganized Territory.

As part of that process, Piscataquis County commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday.

Although the business owners were the only members of the public to attend the hearing, a slew of letters was entered into the record from property owners and seasonal residents opposing the request. Many of those who wrote letters blamed the Surprenants for troubles that have occurred in the community, and said that adding liquor to the mix would only escalate matters.

Since the commissioners on Tuesday deemed the request incomplete, the license request was tabled until next month. Commissioners said the couple failed to provide the company’s federal identification and seller certificate numbers and did not list the directors of their corporation. They also did not provide the distance of their hotel from a church, which the Surprenants claim is a meetinghouse. The Surprenants made no public comment after the tabling of their request.

Commissioner Eric Ward said he has spent more time in Chesuncook trying to restore the peace in the small community than he has on any other project.

A handful of longtime landowners began feuding with the Surprenant family in 2005 over the location of a section of Main Street.

Surprenant discovered that one of three housekeeping cabins he had constructed violated state regulations because it was within 75 feet of the county road. Researching his deed, Surprenant found an error in the location of the road that negated the violation.

Based on Surprenant’s findings and a survey they commissioned, Piscataquis County commissioners authorized Surprenant to move about 20 feet of the road from Surprenant’s land to the north. That move upset other property owners who said Main Street had been in the same location for more than 50 years and should not have been moved.

The disagreement prompted seasonal resident Bruce Bailey to file a civil lawsuit in 2006 against the commissioners and Surprenant. The lawsuit later was dismissed with prejudice; however, an agreement signed by the parties allows for use of part of the new road approved by the commissioners and the use of a short stretch of abutting state-owned land for the main road.

That feuding has since spilled over to other aspects of the community, including the community gravel pile, the landing and the cemetery.

Over the past couple of years, police have been called because of repeated acts of vandalism. Among the complaints, vehicle tires have been punctured, water and other liquids placed in gasoline tanks of vehicles parked at the landing, holes have been drilled in propane lines, equipment has been vandalized, and bullets have been fired into the air.

“There’s games being played consistently, and it needs to be stopped,” Ward said of the vandalism.

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