2016-07-15 / Front Page

Land trust cited for illegal cut

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer


A view from Great Hill Road of beachfront clearing done last winter drew a notice of violation for Kennebunk Land Trust, which the town of Kennebunk says should not have trimmed the beach roses on the site, given land use restrictions in both the resource protection and shoreland zoning districts. (Courtesy photo) A view from Great Hill Road of beachfront clearing done last winter drew a notice of violation for Kennebunk Land Trust, which the town of Kennebunk says should not have trimmed the beach roses on the site, given land use restrictions in both the resource protection and shoreland zoning districts. (Courtesy photo) KENNEBUNK — The town has cited a scofflaw for illegal cutting of vegetation and, in what may seem to be the real head-smacker, the violating party is the Kennebunk Land Trust.

Over the winter, the land trust hired Boiling Spring Landscape of Dayton to prune rosa rugosa, or beach roses, from a small beachfront lot on Great Hill Road.

Located where the road makes a 90-degree turn along the shorefront, near the intersection of Robie Road, the 12,000-square-foot parcel is known locally as Strawberry Island and is partly owned by Kennebunk Beach Improvement Association Charitable Holdings.

The cutting took the rugosa bushes from as tall as 6 feet, down to 6 inches from the ground.

The town first noticed the clearing work on Feb. 23, its eye drawn by the fact the lot sits in both the resource protection and shoreland overlay districts. Rules within those zoning areas prohibit cutting of existing vegetation located within 75 feet of the high water line, except to remove safety hazards.

“The work was not approved or inspected to be in compliance with applicable state and local codes,” wrote code enforcement officer Paul Demers, in a notice of violation delivered June 21.

According to Town Manager Barry Tibbetts, that notice was delivered to both the land trust and the beach association, even though, in the case of the latter, “it does not appear that they were a willing participant in the violation.”

In a June 21 letter to Demers, Marie Louise St. Onge, executive director of the land trust, apologized for the violation, writing, “I was unaware of the zoning requirements governing pruning at Strawberry Island.”

She also took responsibility for drawing the beach association into conflict with the town, saying the exact boundary between its portion of the lot and that owned by the land trust has “historically been unclear to both organizations.”

“As a result, when KLT has done pruning on the property, we have done so to optimize the appearance of the entire area. Thus we have pruned the entire parcel,” she wrote.

However, in a June 30 letter to Demers, the beach association’s lawyer, Alan Shepard of the Kennebunk firm Shepard & Read, adopted a different view.

“A few years ago [KLT] engaged in some similar trimming activity that spilled over onto the KBIA property,” he wrote. “At that time, the director of KBIA called the trust and informed them of this activity and was assured that it would not be repeated.

“Under these circumstances, it came as a surprise when some trimming was done over the winter by KLT and again included the parcel owned by KBIA,” Shepard wrote. “Given that KBIA did not in any way participate in this activity, I would hope that the town would not seek any consent decree or impose any fine.”

Demers’ notice of violation was sent to the beach association as well as to the land trust.

“For the purposes of an enforcement action, any party in violation is included in the notice and then the town may decide how to resolve the land use violation with each party,” Town Manager Barry Tibbetts wrote in a memo to selectmen, attached to the agenda for their July 12 meeting.

“The parties may be subject to a consent agreement in lieu of court action and the town may wish to assess penalties on an individual basis, depending on the level of involvement and nature of the violation,” Tibbetts wrote.

Demers’ notice ordered both the land trust and the beach association to refrain from future cutting of any “understory vegetation” at the site, noting that doing so could draw a fine as high as $2,500.

Selectmen were due to consider the issue at their July 12 meeting. That session took place after the deadline for this week’s Post. However, in his memo to selectmen, Tibbetts said a consent agreement between the parties and the town might be preferable to taking either to district court, especially given that there appears to have been “no significant damage to the root structure,” of the rugosa bushes, indicating they may grow back in short order.

“It has not been the practice of the town to rush to court, and the town attorney has often suggested the town seek to remedy land use violations as an administrative matter, rather than rely on the court system,” Tibbetts wrote.

In the meantime, St. Onge said the land trust “will cease cutting practices at the property ... effective immediately.”

She and Shepard also say their two organizations have already ordered and received a professional survey of the lot, demarcating boundary lines.

Those markers, St. Onge said, have already been “flagged and pegged.”

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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