Searsport tank proposal

Public comment issue arises at board meeting

By Tanya Mitchell | Jun 24, 2012
Source: File image

Searsport — Questions that have arisen regarding public comment at a recent Searsport Planning Board meeting were addressed again Tuesday night, June 19, when a resident brought his concerns to the attention of selectmen during the board's own public comment period.

Searsport resident Peter Taber, who has publicly expressed his opposition to a proposed 22.7-million-gallon liquefied petroleum gas storage tank at Mack Point, informed selectmen of both the good things and the negative aspects of what he said he observed at the Monday, June 11, Planning Board meeting.

"Unfortunately, the Planning Board chose to put the interests of DCP Midstream ahead of a good number of people, not only from our town, but people from as far away as North Haven," said Taber.

Taber said that because the board voted to move the "open to the public" session to the end of the meeting, after company representatives and the board concluded the ongoing review of the 700-page application, some in attendance were "denied the opportunity" to speak to the pending application. The meeting, which spanned more than four hours, included less than an hour of discussion regarding a restaurant application, followed by more than two hours of back-and-forth between the company and the Planning Board. At about 10:30 p.m., the public was invited to speak for no more than 30 minutes overall, and individual comments were limited to a few minutes each.

"They just couldn't hang on that long," said Taber.

Taber said that when DCP attorney Kelly Boden approached the microphone in an attempt to respond to one of the first speakers, the move was met with an unfavorable reaction from some in the audience, and Taber said he was pleased to see Planning Board Chairman Bruce Probert instruct Boden to go to the end of the line and wait her turn.

Then Taber explained what he saw next — a second DCP attorney, James Kilbreth, approaching the table where Probert and Planning Board attorney Kristin Collins were seated and saying, "Better shut this down."

"I was grateful to see nothing more than this came of it," said Taber.

When asked about the incident Tuesday, June 19, DCP Midstream spokeswoman Roz Elliott said company counsel felt some who were expressing opposition to the proposal were treating the public comment period more as a public hearing. In a meeting setting, such as what was the case June 11, Elloitt explained, there is no procedure that allows an applicant to respond, point-by-point, to members of the public. And, Elliott added, the company objected to the nature of what was being said by some of the speakers, noting that they were "introducing testimony that was inaccurate and prejudicial" in a "highly inappropriate venue."

Taber asked the selectmen to support the Planning Board in its effort to allow for public input, as was evidenced by what took place at the June 11 meeting.

"It behooves the town to listen to its citizens," said Taber. "All of them."

Later in the meeting, Selectman Dick Desmarais did not comment specifically on what Taber said, but requested that the next meeting agenda include a general board discussion about the "open to the public" portions of municipal meetings.

Comments (8)
Posted by: wellington dunbar | Jun 25, 2012 22:15

I am not sure why the planning board decided to hold comment periods. It was mentioned that they emulated the selectmans method of conducting business. The selectmen have specific rules and the planning board have specific rules. They are not the same. The boards have specific rules and duties. For example, a selectman as an individual can engage discussion outside of a meeting as a selectman to engage his constituents in meaningful discussion as a representative of his community. A planning board member cannot engage a member of the public as an individual but only as a board member at a board meeting. The two jobs are different and for good reason. It may have been good intent to have comment periods at planning board meetings but it is ill served. Planning boards have always had the ability to conduct public hearings not public comments. Public comment by the planning board is ill served and should be avoided. Searsport should hold as many public hearings and then some on this issue. I not swayed by either side in this discussion other than to allow as much input to this proposal as needed to conduct a fair and adequate outcome.



Posted by: Kimberly j Tucker | Jun 25, 2012 13:41

What DCP's attorneys objected to was that the counsel for Thanks But No Tank discovered that the Purchase and Sale agreement DCP had with Sprague Energy had EXPIRED on 4/30/2012 BEFORE DCP filed that Agreement on 5/4/2012 claiming they have the title right and interest to get a permit for building a 22.7 million gallon LPG storage tank on this land -- that they don't own and currently have no legally enforceable right to buy.  In other words, they objected to having it exposed to the public that Searsport should not be conducting any review of this application, because they lack the Title, Right and Interest to even ask for this permit.  This flaw, as well as their failure to obtain the required Maine Fuel Board permit prior to applying for the Searsport permit were both discovered by Steve Hinchman, Esq.  NOT by the Searport Planning Board's counsel, who admitted she had never even looked at the Purchase & Sale Agreement attached as an exhibit to the Application to see it was not valid.  THIS is why they objected and THIS is why public hearings are needed at all stages of this application review.  Everyone in the Penobscot Bay region will be impacted by this tank and terminal -- we need everyone to have a right to speak about how they feel about that.  More than Searsport will pay the price of this development; more that Searsport and certainly more than DCP mouth pieces have a due process right to speak up and participate in this process.



Posted by: wellington dunbar | Jun 24, 2012 20:07

Interesting that DCP's attornery felt the need to prod the chairman of the planning board to end the comment period. I am not sure what he is trying to pre-emt with his request. Should the planning board rule against DCP, an appeal will be in order and he can argue at that juncture whether his side was treated within legal bounds.

 

 



Posted by: wellington dunbar | Jun 24, 2012 20:02

Interesting that DCP's attornery felt the need to prod the chairman of the planning board to end the comment period. I am not sure what he is trying to pre-emt with his request as should this process



Posted by: wellington dunbar | Jun 24, 2012 20:02

Interesting that DCP's attornery felt the need to prod the chairman of the planning board to end the comment period. I am not sure what he is trying to pre-emt with his request as should t



Posted by: wellington dunbar | Jun 24, 2012 20:02

Interesting that DCP's attornery felt the need to prod the chairman of the planning board to end the comment period. I am not sure what he is trying to pre-emt with his request as should this



Posted by: wellington dunbar | Jun 24, 2012 20:02

Interesting that DCP's attornery felt the need to prod the chairman of the planning board to end the comment period. I am not sure what he is trying to pre-emt with his request as



Posted by: wellington dunbar | Jun 24, 2012 20:02

Interesting that DCP's attornery felt the need to prod the chairman of the planning board to end the comment period. I am not sure what he is trying to pre-emt with his request



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