A generator installed recently outside the Mount Vernon Community Center at 2 North Road has prompted questions about whether the town is breaking rules it fought to enforce, taking the matter all the way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Ashley Allen/Kennebec Journal

MOUNT VERNON — Five years after a local couple were fined and ordered to remove a generator they installed too close to Minnehonk Lake in Mount Vernon, town officials have placed a generator even closer to the water near the banks of the same lake.

The generator, which was installed in mid-June outside the Mount Vernon Community Center at 2 North Road, has raised questions among residents about whether the town is breaking rules it fought to enforce, taking the matter all the way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Code Enforcement Officer Bill Butler said the center’s generator is not violating Mount Vernon’s land use ordinance.

The policy requires structures near a lake, pond or river be set back at least 100 feet from the normal high-water mark. The restrictions, put in place in 1995, are designed to protect wetlands and aquatic life, preserve views of the water and limit the damage flooding and erosion could cause.

Some properties, however, are entirely within the 100-foot line, including the community center and 14 Main St., where the couple had to remove its generator.

In these cases, Butler said, officials have to consider where the principal structure — in this case, the community center — is in relation to the accessory structure, which is the generator.


“The rule of thumb is when you are in the limited residential district of the shoreland zone, you want to make sure that your accessory structure, which is a part of the principal structure, is no closer than the principal structure,” said Butler, who was named code enforcement officer in May 2021.

In simpler terms, if a house is within 80 feet of the high-water mark, for instance, a generator cannot be closer than that.

A Kohler generator was installed recently to provide power to heat and cool the Mount Vernon Community Center during emergencies. Code Enforcement Officer Bill Butler says the generator complies with the town’s land use ordinance because it is farther from Minnehonk Lake than the community center. Ashley Allen/Kennebec Journal

The couple’s generator was closer to the water than their house, Butler said after reviewing the file. They were also missing a building permit required before installing a structure.

That is not the case with the community center.

“I have done this for a long time, and I can tell you unequivocally that the fact that the generator is less than 100 feet is not the issue, but it’s the accessory structure attached to a building, and if it is closer than the building itself,” Butler said.

The Mount Vernon Select Board voted to install the generator two years ago, according to Chair Bob Grenier. Residents also voted on it during an annual Town Meeting.

The generator was installed June 16 at the community center, and is meant to provide power needed to heat or cool the building during emergencies.

The owners of 14 Main St. who were involved in the lawsuit said they were unaware of the town’s generator but declined to comment.

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