2017-08-11 / Front Page

Board approves consent agreement

Selectmen will work with Pave-Tek owner to resolve compliance issues
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — An Arundel businessman accused of operating a pair of businesses outside of town zoning ordinances, will not meet the 60-day deadline set by selectmen to bring his operation into compliance. Town officials say they are willing to work toward eventual compliance and will not assess additional fines or enforcement action.

On June 12, selectmen signed two consent agreements with William Stilphen over use of his 5-acre property at 31 Stilphen Way, where neighbors complained he was violating a conditional use permit granted in 2003 for his road contracting business Pave-Tek, by storing more heavy equipment on site than allowed in the permit, and by storing a tank truck for a second fuel delivery business. The neighbors also claimed Stilphen was running a medical marijuana cultivation facility not allowed by local zoning rules in his area of town.

Although Stilphen had a state permit to grow medical marijuana, he has since closed down the operation, for which he had renovated a barn on his property, per the consent agreement.

In an Aug. 7 interview, Stilphen said he now rents a building off site to house his marijuana plants, although he declined to name the town in which it is located.

“That’s none of anybody’s business,” he said. “Marijuana has been around since I was a child. It’s legal and it’s medical, so I don’t understand what the big deal is. I did everything right to the law. That’s why I hired a medical marijuana lawyer.”

At a July 18 selectmen’s workshop in Kennebunk, where officials were considered sending voters a proposal to ban all retail marijuana operations made legal by a statewide vote last November, town attorney Natalie Burns, of Portland firm Jensen, Baird, Gardner and Henry, advised the board about local zoning rules.

“The question is whether municipalities may enact zoning or other land use regulations on medical marijuana caregivers,” she said. “There is no case law on this, although there is a case right now in the town of York, but we have guidance from the state that municipalities may regulate caregivers only as long as they are not operating out of their own homes.”

Stilphen said he and his attorney, Matt Dubois of Bangor, are aware of the state guidance, but that he chose to comply with selectboard enforcement of rules for rural conservation zone he lives in, rather than take the town through a costly court battle.

“I don’t want to argue with the town,” Stilphen said. “I don’t want to argue with my neighbors. I’ve never been that way. But, really, it’s nobody’s business, but it’s not a big deal to me. I stay to myself. I work 16 hours a day. I’ve got seven men [employees] who depend on me. So, really, what are you going to do?”

Attempts to reach Dubois were unsuccessful.

On Monday, both Town Planner Tad Redway and Town Manager Keith Trefethen said they were unaware of the state guidance on local zoning restrictions on medical marijuana caregiver operations. However, both said that until there is a court case that rules conclusively on the subject, they will side with their own ordinances.

“It’s not ambiguous,” Redway said. “That kind of thing [medical marijuana cultivation] is clearly defined in our codes and that type of operation is not allowed within that district. So, that’s what we have to go by.”

With the marijuana issue apparently dealt with, the attention has turned to Stilphen’s other businesses.

After agreeing to pay an $840 fine, plus cover the town’s $900 legal bill to draw up the June 12 consent agreement, Stilphen had one day, until, June 13, to submit an application for a Contractor Yard 2 permit that would allow for the types of business activity he reportedly was conducting on his property.

Stilphen met that deadline, which allowed his application to be judged by the planning board under zoning rules in place before amended at the June 14 annual town meeting. However, the consent agreement then gave Stilphen 60 days to meet all conditions of his new permit. As of Monday, that permit has not been issued, pending planning board review of Stilphen’s application.

Stilphen had a preliminary appointment before the planning board July 13, at which the board laid out the conditions he needed to meet when submitting his formal plans. At that time, the board indicated an Aug. 10 review was possible, which would have allowed Stilphen to slip in just under the wire of the consent agreement.

However, Redway said Monday Stilphen’s application will not be taken up by the planning board Aug. 10, and is not currently on the schedule for the next meeting, Aug. 24.

“We’ve had nothing from him,” Redway said.

“I’m waiting on the engineer,” Stilphen said, when asked for the status of his site plan. “I’m doing everything the town has asked me to do. I’ve hired an engineer. I’ve hired a surveyor. These things take time.”

That, however, has reportedly riled Stilphen’s neighbors.

“They see the 60-day thing as a hard deadline,” Redway said. “And some of the neighbors have been pushing us to treat it that way, to basically say he’s out of compliance with the agreement, meaning, I guess, that, as they see it, he’s out of luck.”

However, Trefethen said the town is not prepared to take punitive action.

“He’s not going to meet his 60-day requirement and some of the property owners down there have contacted me and they are a little upset,” Trefethen said. “But what are you going to do? Are you going to pull the rug out from underneath him? I don’t see it as a hard deadline. The town has never approached it that way. He’s making efforts. He’s before the planning board now trying to get his things accomplished. If he withdraws his application or anything like that, yes, he would fall back to his 2003 permit, which would limit his operations.

“I know it doesn’t sit well with the neighbors, but as long as he is trying to correct what he is doing, then we are going to work with him to accomplish those goals, as long as he keeps making progress on the steps necessary,” Trefethen said.

“I’m just waiting on the engineer,” Stilphen said. “My neighbors know that. They knew it at the last meeting [before the planning board July 13], but all they like to do is keep turning things around on me.”

Two of the neighbors who has been most vocal about Stilphen’s property use violations have been Stacy and Dewey Gile, of Macchipkay Road. In an Aug. 8 email, Stacy Gile said she and her neighbors are “actively monitoring” Stilphen’s progress, noting that new planning board chairman Chip Bassett is the “largest abutter.”

Beyond that, however, she referred comment to Kennebunk attorney Bruce Read, who, she said, is acting on behalf of the Giles and “the MacChipkay [Road] residents group of their neighbors.

Stilphen, meanwhile, did not shy from criticism of his neighbors. Stacy Gile has said she only discovered the extra equipment, including the fuel tanker, on her neighbor’s property “as a total accident,” when examining her own lot on Google Earth. Discovery of the marijuana growing has been attributed as an additional accident, tied to a search through the woods for a lost dog.

However, Stilphen says the observation has been both more covert and intentional, and not at all recent.

“Dewey, he should have something a little better to do than to come and peek out through the woods at me with binoculars,” Stilphen said. “If I keep getting harassed from him, I’m going to sue him.”

The town code enforcement file on Stilphen’s property contains several photos of his home and outbuildings taken through the woods, with the structures and vehicles barely discernible through the trees.

At the July 13 selectboard meeting, Stacy Gile said she and her neighbors are only trying to protect their property values, from the unintended consequences of a tank rupture in Stilphen’s fuel truck, or the stigma of being next to such a large marijuana operation. Gile and another neighbor, Lynn Howe, claimed at that meeting that Stilphen had as many as 160 plants, later citing code enforcement and York County Sheriff’s Department reports.

But Stilphen disputes that was ever the case, saying that number was not even close.

“My neighbors are wrong,” he said. “All I had for plants, it was me and my kids and family. We each had a different room [in the barn].”

Stilphen did, however, decline to assign a number to the amount of plants he had on site before the move, or how many he is growing off-site now.

Under state law, a medical marijuana caregiver may serve as many as five patients, and grow no have than six mature plants for each.

“I was providing to veterans. All this did was screw that up,” Stilphen said of the forced repatriation of his plants. “I can probably take them on again down the road, but for right now I’m a day late and a dollar short for that.”

For now, Stilphen’s primary concern is is creating a site plan for his paving and fuel delivery operations that is as professional as it can be, a requirement made clear by Read at the July 13 meeting.

“There are 20 items that are required in all applications for conditional use, including a survey,” he said. “I’m a little concerned to hear the board debating whether it should require a survey. It’s required, unless you waive it. It’s very important to show all of the boundary and site access information. We have a gentleman here who is under two consent agreements from the board of selectmen. This application should require a higher level of scrutiny than even [any others] are required to go through. We want to see a thorough presentation here. It’s very important to get all the information so the board can judge, does this fit in with the surrounding neighborhood.”

For his part, Stilphen says he’s just a regular guy doing the best he can in the face of government regulation.

“I’m in business to make a living. I don’t try to hurt anybody,” he said. “I’d like to be left alone after this.”

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

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