MDOT project bypasses Planning Board directive
Claiming the Maine Department of Transportation ignored a directive from the Bethel Planning Board to get local approval for an MDOT building project, and has also damaged an abutter’s land, selectmen Monday decided to contact state representatives and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for help.
Town Manager Jim Doar told selectmen Monday that MDOT had started a construction project at its maintenance lot on Route 2.
He said that on Jan. 30 the agency had submitted a building permit application, and the town decided MDOT should meet with the Planning Board to determine if a full site plan review was warranted.
MDOT was placed on the Feb. 27 agenda, but did not provide information requested ahead of the meeting and was subsequently removed from that agenda, Doar said.
MDOT was on the agenda for the March 27 meeting and was told a site plan review was needed, he said.
“MDOT ignored that and just started building,” Doar said. “This is an issue because of a lot of things they’re doing out there that they shouldn’t be doing.”
That included, he said, paving part of the driveway on an abutter’s land and “dumping storm water from pavement directly onto the abutters’ land and killing trees.”
Doar asked the board if the town should pursue violation proceedings.
He said if any planning board wishes to review an MDOT application, law requires the agency be notified within 45 days of MDOT’s initial notification to the town of its plan.
With the delay resulting from the February meeting issue, that technically didn’t happen, Doar said, and the town attorney said the town likely would not win the battle.
Still, said Doar, “I feel it’s worth the fight. There’s a reason we have site plan review," noting it gives abutters a chance to have input. And, he said, "We make everyone else go through it.”
Had a review taken place in this case, he said, a stormwater drainage plan would likely have been required and the effect of added pavement might also have been examined.
Doar added that the abutter had talked with MDOT about the impacts to his property, and the agency said it could buy the land.
When the abutter said he had no interest in selling, according to Doar, MDOT said it could take the land by eminent domain.
“That’s not acceptable. This is a state agency that should not be acting this way,” said Doar.
Selectmen were reluctant, however, to pursue action with little hope of success. Doar also acknowledged the move would likely be of little help to the abutter.
But selectman Pat Carter said the board “should voice our displeasure. They should know how we feel. They’re getting too big for their britches.”
Selectmen also agreed the town should contact local legislative representatives and another state agency, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Contacted Wednesday, MDOT spokesman Ted Talbot said the agency is not required to go through local planning processes. The Bethel site plan review requires a nine-page application, he said, and MDOT does not have the resources during the construction season to commit to such a process.
Regarding the abutter issue, Talbot said MDOT is now negotiating with the abutter to buy additional land for expansion at the lot. The paving took place at least 15 years ago, he said, and any potential runoff problems would not be recent developments.