December 18, 2017
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Chellie Pingree’s island lodge expansion can stay, judge rules

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff
Updated:
Courtesy of Hannah Pingree | BDN
Courtesy of Hannah Pingree | BDN
The building on the left was the focus of a court appeal filed by a neighbor to the Nebo Lodge on North Haven.

NORTH HAVEN, Maine — The expansion of a historic lodge owned by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree will be allowed to stand, a state judge has ruled.

Justice Daniel Billings rejected an appeal filed by Steven Wolfram, a neighbor to Nebo Lodge, over the construction of a two-story, 40-by-26-foot building on the lodge’s property. The building — built for storage, an office and for two employees to live — was completed in the spring of 2014.

“It’s really a win not just for Nebo Lodge but for the community of North Haven,” said attorney Thomas Federle, who represented Nebo Lodge Real Estate LLC.

Wolfram had argued that the project should be sent back to the town’s Board of Appeals and that the chairwoman of that board should be disqualified from participating because of statements he said she made that showed a clear bias against Wolfram.

Justice Billings disagreed in his April 23 ruling.

“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,” Billings concluded.

Nebo Lodge is owned by Rep. Pingree and her daughter, Hannah Pingree, oversees operations.

The expansion was approved by the town planning board in December 2013. The Board of Appeals upheld the approval in March 2014. Wolfram then filed his appeal and Justice Billings held a hearing on the matter in March 2015.

Attorney Paul Gibbons, who represented North Haven, said there was no evidence of the allegation by Wolfram that the appeals board chairwoman made comments during a planning board meeting that Wolfram’s actions were objectionable and un-American. Gibbons pointed out that Wolfram was listening to the meeting by telephone from Paris, France.

The judge said that if there was a record of an appeals board member making such a comment, it would have been a proper basis to vacate the appeals board decision. However, he said, the record was not clear.

“The only evidence of the statements alleged to have been made by the BOA Chair is an unsworn statement of Mr. Wolfram submitted to the BOA,” Billings stated.

Gibbons also successfully argued that when the zoning board heard Wolfram’s appeal, neither he nor his at attorney raised any objection to the chair’s participation.

Wolfram also had contended that construction of the building, which replaced a deteriorated bungalow, violated town ordinances because the lodge was a nonconforming use. The construction exceeded the area allowed for an expansion and exceeded the amount of development allowed on a lot, he claimed.

Justice Billings rejected those arguments.

Wolfram is a U.S. citizen who lives in France but summers at a home next to the lodge he bought in 2009.

His attorney Matthew Manahan could not immediately be reached for comment.

 


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