The Phippsburg Board of Selectmen on Monday filed an appeal with the Maine Board of Environmental Protection asking that it reconsider a permit granted to a Popham Beach homeowner to remove about 150 pilings that previously supported a pier used by the Eastern Steamship Company.
Jackson and Susan Parker of Woolwich received permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers to remove the pilings, which are set on the beach below the low tide line.
Jack Parker said at a November selectmen’s meeting that he wanted to remove the pilings “to protect the beach from erosion with rising sea levels,” according to meeting minutes. “He claimed he had no ulterior motive, as had been rumored, for building a dock or adding a mooring and offered to answer any questions.”
But other Phippsburg residents, including neighbors Rafael and Victoria Villamil, saw other motives, and scurried earlier this summer to block the final permit.
In a letter Monday to BEP Chairman James W. Parker, selectmen wrote they are concerned the project proposed by Jackson and Susan Parker could cause “significant environmental damage to nearby marine life and maritime activities, and potential damage to those living near, working in, and recreating in surrounding waters.”
They wrote that the pilings are historically significant, and argue that the Parkers do not have legal standing to remove them because, while the Parkers own the property adjacent to land that abuts the pilings, the owner of the parcel immediately behind the pilings is unknown. They argue that because the pilings are located below the low-tide line, the Parkers have no legal right to them.
Selectmen further argue that the pilings may be treated with “dangerous chemicals” such as creosote, a carcinogen, and that the burden of proving they do not contain creosote lies with the Parkers.
They write that “a great many people are in favor of keeping the piles as they are,” and ask that a new public process take place before the application is reconsidered.
The letter supports an appeal, filed by the town of Phippsburg, Rafael and Victoria Villamil and Ethan Debery.
The Villamils, whose house on Popham abuts the Parkers’ property, say their house is more affected by the pilings than the Parkers, and they aren’t interested in having the beach altered. They believe the pilings have likely prevented erosion in front of their house like that experienced on other parts of Popham.
A phone call to the Parker’s home on Tuesday went unanswered, and Jack Parker did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
But Jon Seamans of Massachusetts, who spends two weeks every year at Popham, said Tuesday that he hopes the Parkers will withdraw their proposal, particularly after learning of “the overwhelming opposition from residents and seasonal visitors alike.”
“This appeal makes it clear that the people who know and love Popham do not want to see this change and to persist would be a direct affront to the majority including families with roots in the community going back more than 100 years,” Seamans wrote in an email to the Bangor Daily News.