ROME — The Planning Board has approved an application to construct a children’s summer camp on Long Pond in an unexpected decision following months of procedural delays and despite widespread opposition to the project from nearby residents.

The decision by the board Monday followed an attempt by some planning board members to delay a vote on the application by property owner David Porter for another month to gather more information on shoreland noise from the camp that could violate the town’s noise standards.

The decision has left some neighbors upset. Doris Jorgenson, who has owned a house on Beaver Cove next to the proposed camp for almost 60 years, said Tuesday the decision was “unbelievable” to her.

“I’m appalled at what it is going to do to us. It is going to ruin me. They are not considering at all what it is going to do to us in the cove,” Jorgenson said. “It’s a nice thing, but it doesn’t belong in the cove.”

Planning Board Co-Chairman Dick Greenan said Tuesday he had not expected the board would decide on the application at Monday’s meeting, and he thought instead the panel would wait until February to vote.

“I don’t know what happened. I thought we were going to follow due process, and we had requested our noise study. That was all bypassed by the planning board,” Greenan said. “They put it on a fast track for one reason or another. I don’t know why there was a rush to a decision here. I guess that’s democracy at work. I don’t know.”

Two regular planning board members did not vote on the decision. Planning board Co-Chairman John Schlosser, who owns a home near the camp, recused himself from the decision, and Jack Schultz could not attend. Their seats were filled by alternates Fred Gagnon and Dan Robbins.

The application was approved with the sole condition that there would be no amplified sound at the shoreline. Sarah McDaniel, an attorney representing Porter, said her client would not agree to other conditions proposed by Greenan, including an annual erosion inspection by a third party and a vernal pool survey on the entire property.

Her client agreed not to allow water skiing from the camp, she said. “Mr. Porter, even if people don’t think so, is a man of his word,” she said.

Porter, of Sudbury, Massachusetts, intends to construct a summer camp for siblings separated in foster homes on 68 acres he owns off Watson Pond Road. Plans for the camp, sited in a heavily wooded area, include bunk houses, lodges, activity buildings, docks and sports fields. The proposed camp would have shore land access to a quiet, secluded inlet on the northern end of Long Pond known as Beaver Cove.

In an interview Tuesday, Porter said he was “shocked” when he learned the board had taken a vote and approved his application.

“I knew they were going to try and nail me on the noise, and I’m glad they saw through that,” Porter said.

The project needs to get an updated stormwater permit for the site from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and Porter will likely wait for an appeal from opponents before starting construction.

“If they appeal, I’ll wait for the Rome appeals board to come back, and after that, if it is approved, there will be a shovel in the ground,” he said.

A planning board decision on the camp has been postponed for months. The board was initially slated to review the application in September, but it was pushed back to give time to Porter to complete a noise study that was reviewed by a noise consultant hired by the town.

The application was delayed again in December when the planning board asked Porter for an updated noise study to gauge how the noise from campers would travel over the water.

Local opponents of the camp, organized in the group Concerned Citizens of Beaver Cove, have hired their own attorney to prepare a possible challenge with the town appeals board. Nearby residents are concerned campers will upset the quiet area and are worried about environmental damage from the camp. Dozens of people have sent letters to the planning board asking for it to reject the application.

On Monday, Greenan said that Porter’s response, sent Jan. 4, did not address the planning board’s question and that its own noise consultant wanted more information about the study. He also cited several academic articles indicating noise was amplified when it traveled over water.

The board would be rushing into a decision on the camp without more data on the noise issue, Greenan said.

But McDaniel said her client had satisfied the requirements of the town’s commercial ordinance and deserved to have a planning board vote on the application.

“This is not a popularity contest,” and the planning board needed to apply town rules evenly and fairly, McDaniel said.

She pointed to several legal opinions, including from the town’s own attorney, Frank Underkuffler, of Farmington, that warned against deciding the application based on a subjective noise study. The Maine Municipal Association backed up Underkuffler’s opinion in a letter to the town.

Board member Alan LaBelle also took exception to Greenan’s request for more information.

LaBelle said he did not believe the camp would produce radical noise and thought the planning board was asking for information the applicant couldn’t provide.

“I find that to be a waste of energy, and it is unfair to ask the applicant to request that information,” LaBelle said.

Selectman Richard LaBelle, speaking from the crowd, reminded the planning board that the town’s own lawyer had warned against “hanging their hat” on the noise study and said using noise as a pretext to reject the application would be speculation because it is unknown how much noise the camp will make until it is built.

But John Shumadine, an attorney focused on land-use issues representing Concerned Citizens of Beaver Cove, told the board its only choice was to delay voting on the application until Porter provided information showing he met the noise standard.

“For them to come in here and push it through, that is not how this should work,” Shumadine said.

Board members voted 3-2 against a motion by Greenan to delay a vote on the application.

The board voted unanimously on almost all 20 findings of fact that the application was complete, with Greenan and Robbins voting against the finding that the project would not have a significant detrimental effect on nearby property owners.

Shumadine on Tuesday said he was surprised the planning board took action on the application and was discussing with his clients what steps to take next.

“Obviously, we think it is an incorrect decision, and the board had no basis for the decision it made,” Shumadine said.

If his clients want to oppose the decision, they need to file an appeal with the town board of appeals within 30 days, he said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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