The Belgrade Board of Appeals meets Wednesday afternoon.

BELGRADE — Neighbors who appealed an after-the-fact Shoreland Permit issued to a property at 326 Sandy Cove Road along Long Pond in Belgrade brought their cases to the Belgrade Board of Appeals in a Zoom hearing Wednesday afternoon, only to have their appeals denied.

The property, owned by Jody and Stephen Jones, received a permit from Belgrade’s Planning Board on Aug. 6, 2020. The two-story, 1,028-square-foot structure has a garage, laundry room, three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

“Hopefully this will put an end to this,” board member Dave Bonar said at the end of the meeting while thanking attorneys and appellants for their efforts in the case. “This has been going on for some time. In my experience this is not abnormal.”

Wednesday’s meeting was solely to determine whether the Belgrade Planning Board had correctly followed procedure in the issuance of the permit. In the finding of fact and conclusions by the Belgrade Planning Board, the panel found “that the project is a permitted accessory structure to a residential use.”

Neighbors John T. Sutton and Geoffrey and Carolyn Stiff filed separate administrative appeals for different reasons, both related to the property.

The board of appeals considered Sutton’s appeal first and voted unanimously 5-0 to deny it without significant discussion.

In an August letter to Planning Board Chairperson Peter Rushton, Sutton wrote that the structure was built on a non-conforming lot under “flawed” permits, that the septic system fouls land he has tabbed for a future well and that the septic discharge would be too close and ends up on his property. Sutton also objects to the width of a right of way on the North Sandy Cove Road, which is private.

“My general concern is the precedent for Shore Land Zoning control in Belgrade implied by this ‘build first – forgive – remit’ policy,” Sutton wrote.

The board of appeals then moved onto the Stiffs’ appeal, which also resulted in a 5-0 vote to deny the appeal.

Attorney Chris Neagle represented the Stiffs and wrote in a Sept. 3, 2020, appeal that the Planning Board’s written decision was incomplete and the property is not being used for accessory use or is a residential dwelling.

“The Stiffs respectfully request that the Zoning Board of Appeals remand this dispute back to the planning board, so that a complete written decision can be made,” Neagle wrote. “Otherwise, lots of time and money will be spent bringing the dispute to the Superior Court, which will almost certainly send the case back.”

The case was remanded and the Planning Board met Oct. 1, 2020, to complete the finding of fact. The Planning Board decided the building was an accessory structure.

Board member Norma Blazer said the Planning Board was “put in a terrible position” in weighing the case. She asked why the structure was not analyzed as an addition to the property. She also said the Planning Board had to conform the structure to the ordinance, which proved a challenge and includes a prohibition of appliances.

“If the structure had been permitted accurately before construction, it would’ve been conformed to the ordinance and we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” Blazer said. “I am not in favor of having this building described as an accessory structure.”

Board member Jay Bradshaw “fell back on” what the Planning Board concluded in the conditions of their approval.

“What is within our responsibility is to take a look and say, ‘did the Planning Board act appropriately in the decision?’, and I find that they did,” Bradshaw said.

Board member Richard Bourne said the after-the-fact application did nothing other than require the Jones’s to modify the structure to conform to the rules of an original application.

“Once it got reduced to the acceptable levels, then for the Planning Board to approve the application for the structure seems to me to be a perfectly proper thing for them to do,” Bourne said.

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