BELGRADE LAKES — There’s not much to see from Richard and Joan Tripp’s screen porch — except for a very tall, very white structure.

The Tripps’ 160-year-old home at the heart of the village abuts the Maine Lakes Resource Center, which is close to completion.

Construction of the 3,500-square-foot building began in October. The center will officially open July 30.

Richard Tripp said he used to be able to see Mill Stream and his neighbors down the street. But no longer.

“My whole family feels a sense of loss,” Tripp said Friday. “We feel it’s not the home we moved into 40 years ago. It’s lost a lot of its charm. I sort of feel like nobody cares.”

The resource center is an initiative of Docks to Doorways, a coalition of Colby College and conservation-minded groups including the Belgrade Lakes Association and the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance.

It is the hope of those involved in the project that the center will increase public education on protecting lakes across the state.

The center is built on the footprint of a Main Street home destroyed by fire about 10 years ago. All that was left was a cement foundation covered by a blue tarp.

The 78-year-old retired state worker said the old house never obstructed their view because it was so narrow.

“We could see past the old house to the Maine Made Shop and see our neighbors,” he said. “I could see Mr. Pulsifer and say ‘Hi’ to him and see all the things that were happening in the neighborhood.

“The thing of it is, the building, by its size and its scope and by the way it’s built parallel to our property line, blocks everything.”

Tripp said he would have liked to have been more involved in the planning stages of the building. A member of the group did show him sketches and plans for landscaping, but for him that wasn’t enough.

“We weren’t a participant,” he said. “No one said, ‘As an abutter, we would like you to join us in this.’ There was no participation at any time. It was, ‘This has been accomplished and we’re letting you know.’ We didn’t have any opportunity to discuss any changes.”

Pete Kallin, executive director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance, who will have an office on the second floor of the center, said the group contacted Tripp and Bill Pulsifer, who lives on the other side of the building, early on in the process.

Pulsifer declined comment.

“They were contacted before we ever even bought the property,” Kallin said. “When it went to the Planning Board, the town of Belgrade sent out notification.

“I do know they sent it out a day later than what they were supposed to. If he didn’t get a certified letter, that could very possibly be true.”

Tripp said he never received a certified letter from the town notifying him of the project.

Belgrade Deputy Clerk Mary Vogel said there is no requirement to send a certified letter for a commercial development review by the Planning Board, but that all the abutters did receive notification, except Tripp.

“Mr. Tripp was omitted in error,” Vogel said. “It wasn’t purposely done or anything like that. There is no requirement to even notify the abutters.”

Kallin said the village is zoned for commercial development and the project met all the town’s ordinance requirements.

“There were no shortcuts in the permits from DEP and the town for the septic system, and the town’s code enforcement officer was on site inspecting the work,” Kallin said. “I’m empathetic and sympathetic, but we did not take any short cuts or any special favors in the construction.”

Kallin said the driving force behind the design was to insure that it fit into the village. The open post-and-beam construction has the feel of a traditional Maine barn.

Mel Croft, executive director of the lakes resource center, said he is sensitive to other people’s views and personal situations, but the center is something that’s going to be good for all seven lakes in the region.

“I’m sure that’s not going to make him feel better to look at it that way,” Croft said. “Everybody’s making sacrifices for the greater good of the lakes.

“Our lakes are in trouble. Even with all we’re doing, we’re seeing a decrease in water quality and invasive plants coming into our lakes. Our lake center is a way to get people to come in and learn more about lake conservation.

The issue comes down to the timing of him getting involved and why he wasn’t involved.

“Unfortunately,” Croft said, “it sounds like there was a lack of good communication.”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]


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