December 15, 2018
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Maine’s highest court will hear challenge to Chellie Pingree’s island inn expansion

Courtesy of Hannah Pingree
Courtesy of Hannah Pingree
The building on the left is the target of a court appeal filed by a neighbor to Nebo Lodge on North Haven.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine State Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments next week in a long-running dispute between U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and a neighbor on North Haven over whether an expansion of Pingree’s Nebo Lodge violated town zoning ordinances.

Steven Wolfram, who bought a summer home in 2009 that abuts the historic inn on the Penobscot Bay island, filed an appeal in Knox County Superior Court in March 2015 after the spring 2014 completion of the two-story, 40-by-26-foot building on the inn’s property. The expansion was built for storage, office space and to house two lodge employees.

Wolfram lost his Superior Court case last year, but has appealed the decision. Oral arguments are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8 at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland.

Portland attorneys Matthew Manahan and Catherine Connors, who are representing Wolfram, claim that the expansion violates town zoning and that the town misinterpreted its own code in approving the structure.

They also claim that neighbors around Nebo Lodge were denied their right to a due process, citing email conversations that surfaced between the lodge’s manager, Hannah Pingree, and town officials, as well as the unfair bias of North Haven Board of Appeals Chairwoman Pat Curtis, which they said resulted in the board’s rejection of Wolfram’s appeal.

Wolfram had initially taken his complaints to the Town of North Haven’s Planning Board in 2013, which approved the expansion, and then Board of Appeals, which decided Pingree had not committed a violation. Wolfram argued that the building was a nonconforming use and that the size of the building exceeded restrictions.

He said in May 2014 that when he bought his summer residence five years prior, Nebo Lodge was a modest, quiet bed and breakfast. It had grown in the years since, he claimed, and had adversely affected the area with traffic and noise.

Hannah Pingree has said it is still a modest size, with nine-bedrooms and a restaurant and bar.

Wolfram argued also that the board Chairwoman Curtis’ opinion was unfairly biased against him and that she called Wolfram “un-American” during the meeting, which led him to challenge the board’s decision in court.

Paul Gibbons, North Haven’s town attorney, argued in court that there was no evidence to back up his claim. Justice Daniel Billings agreed.

Billings rejected Wolfram’s appeal April 2016, concluding that, “based on the record before the court, the court is unable to conclude that the [Board of Appeals] Chair was biased or that any such bias impacted the Plaintiff’s due process rights.”

Had that bias been proved, Billings said, it would have been reason for the Board of Appeals to vacate its decision.

Neither Manahan nor Gibbons could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

 


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