BELGRADE — Shawn Grant’s controversial boat business may be up and running after multiple zoning skirmishes with the town, but Belgrade officials have decided to seek a legal opinion about its latest permit.

The Belgrade Board of Selectpersons granted unanimous permission Monday for the town Planning Board to seek legal counsel to answer questions on Grant’s shoreland zoning permit application.

The latest action, following years of dispute between Grant and the town, had Selectman Rick Damren openly wondering Monday why both sides were still spending money on the dispute.

“This just doesn’t quit,” Damren said. “I can look and dig up stuff, too. What are we gaining out of this?”

Shawn Grant on the docks July 16, 2018, at Brightside Marine, the business he owns in Belgrade Lakes Village. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

According to a memorandum from Planning Board Chairperson Peter Rushton to the Board of Selectpersons, the board voted 4-1 at its meeting last Thursday to seek authorization from the town’s governing body to seek a legal opinion about Brightside Marine’s shoreland zoning permit.

Owned by Grant, Brightside Marine is a boat restoration and rental business operated on the same property as his Hulin Road home. It opened in 2008 as a home occupation under the town’s shoreland zoning ordinance.

The shoreland zoning permit is part of a consent agreement reached with the town in July 2020 after a lawsuit regarding the permitting of Grant’s docks. The town won the lawsuit, with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling Grant could no longer charge people to use the docks at his Great Pond outlet stream business. Grant was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.

Meanwhile, some neighbors have continued to criticize the Brightside Marine business, saying they worry about property value, lake quality and neighborly interactions.

Grant has already changed his permitting from home occupation to commercial, but Grant also must secure a shoreland zoning permit to be in compliance with the consent agreement.

According to Rushton’s memorandum, Planning Board members have contacted the Maine Municipal Association and Maine Department of Environmental Protection about the matter. As part of the permit, Grant wants to hire employees as part of the change to commercial use. No construction is proposed in the application.

The Planning Board has listed seven questions it wants answered by the town’s lawyer, Mike Hodgkins, regarding the commercial permit on a property located on two different nonconforming lots, confirming the lot size and locations and if the permit meets minimum lot standards.

The board’s findings say the two uses and structures require 100,000 square feet of lot area, but there are only 68,875 square feet in the shoreland zone.

Rushton told the board he hoped the issue would be over following the permitting process.

Lawyer Roger Katz of Augusta, who represents Brightside, attended the meeting Monday, but board Chairperson Melanie Jewell said she was not comfortable having legal counsel speak at the meeting with only one side represented. All five members of the Board of Selectmen agreed.

Samantha Grant, Shawn Grant’s wife, said they support the Planning Board seeking a lawyer’s approval. However, she wanted to involve their legal counsel in the questions to the lawyer.

“This was an application that was mandated by the town, and I would point out we are moving to legal expenses,” she said. “As a taxpayer, this does not seem like a sound expenditure of taxpayer money.”

Jewell motioned to seek legal counsel, and the board voted.

“Once we have some answers,” Jewell said, “we need to have an executive session with both attorneys present. That’s how we’ll proceed.”

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