July 16, 2018
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Botanical gardens, Boothbay quietly work to end legal feud over $30M expansion

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Crews work on an expansion at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay last May,
By Beth Brogan, BDN Staff

Two months after Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens filed suit against the town of Boothbay alleging that the town violated the Civil Rights Act, settlement talks have begun.

In December, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens sued Boothbay in U.S. District Court alleging the town incorrectly revoked a permit for the botanical gardens to expand, a project that was already well underway.

The project was originally to include a new visitor center and gift shop, a restaurant in the existing visitor center, a 16,000-square-foot horticulture research and production facility, and a nearly six-story conservatory, along with expanded parking, gardens and trails.

The town’s Board of Appeals in November approved a stop-work order based on an appeal from neighbors of the gardens who objected that the expansion would negatively affect a nearby watershed.

A Lincoln County Superior Court justice had previously declined to issue a restraining order, and the botanical gardens began work in February 2017. The town issued a “stop work” order in November.

Attorneys for the botanical gardens argue in recent court filings that the town violated the gardens’ 14th Amendment rights to due process of law and asked the court to reverse the Board of Appeals’ decision.

Four members of the Anthony family, who live next to the gardens and also have filed a civil suit over the expansion, are intervenors in the federal suit.

The town, represented by Portland attorney Sally Daggett, has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing among other points that the botanical gardens had no constitutionally protected property interest and was not denied due process.

The botanical gardens later filed a modified application for expansion. On Wednesday, the Boothbay Planning Board voted for a second time to table consideration of that application at the suggestion of code enforcement officer Jason Lorrain, who cited ongoing negotiations, The Boothbay Register reported.

According to a Tuesday order by Judge Jon D. Levy, the three parties have agreed to negotiate a settlement facilitated by attorney Jerrol Crouter, and they have signed a confidentiality agreement regarding the mediation. The lawsuit was not stayed pending the mediation.

Lorrain on Friday declined to comment on the negotiations, as did Kris Folsom, director of marketing for the botanical gardens.

Jason Anthony, who lives on Gaecklin Road abutting the construction, wrote in an email Friday that since botanical gardens filed a “frivolous and desperate” due process claim in federal court and appealed in state court, his family was “forced” to file suit to defend the Board of Appeals decision “because of CMBG’s aggressive tactics and the town’s decision to allow CMBG to keep working without a permit.”

But Anthony added, in part, that despite the complicated legal situation, “the ethics are pretty straightforward. CMBG simply needs to remove the small portion of their $30 million development which is in the Knickerbocker Lake watershed.”

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