May 28, 2020
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Phippsburg officials explore ways to delay removal of Popham Beach pilings

Bill Hanley | BDN
Bill Hanley | BDN
Pilings set deep in the sand near the northern end of Popham Beach are all that remain of the Boston Boat pier and the state pier, which according to historians was used by the Eastern Steamship Company boats from the 1880s until 1911. Neighbors and other Phippsburg residents objected when Jack Parker, whose house looks out over the pilings, applied to remove the pilings.

Two weeks after filing an appeal with the state asking regulators to reconsider a permit allowing Jack and Susan Parker to remove about 150 pilings on Popham Beach, the Phippsburg Board of Selectmen on Wednesday will consider sending a letter to the Parkers asking that they wait to remove the pilings until the appeal is decided.

With permits in hand from state and federal regulatory agencies, selectmen acknowledge the Parkers have the right to proceed, but encourage them to wait, particularly considering “numerous comments” the town received about the removal.

“We respectfully ask that you take no action on the pile removal until the appeal process has run its course,” states a draft of the letter distributed to selectmen.

The Parkers, of Woolwich, received permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers to remove the pilings, which previously supported a pier used by the Eastern Steamship Company and are set on the beach below the low tide line.

Jack Parker, who is CEO of Reed & Reed Construction, 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.

Selectmen, along with Rafael and Victoria Villamil, whose Popham home also abuts the pilings, and Ethan Debery, wrote that the pilings are historically significant, and argued 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.

According to the letter, selectmen have asked state officials to hold a public meeting on the issue, and plan to take several actions before they would consider “closure” on the project. Among them, they hope to scientifically verify environmental issues, properly assess historical artifacts, and “fairly balance all interests.”

An alternate version of the letter also says selectmen want to verify legal property rights, although the state has already declared the pilings state-owned and abandoned.

Town Administrator Amber L. Jones said Tuesday that selectmen will consider both versions of the letter.


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