Concerns about a rural road being able to handle restaurant traffic are in the forefront of David Ganley’s mind. He has lived on Hersey Retreat Road for 48 years and a recent proposal by his neighbor and owner of The Retreat at French’s Point, Robert Brooks, is the reason.

Ganley spoke to Stockton Springs Planning Board members at their regular meeting April 4 to express his concerns about Brooks’ proposal to add a year-round 90-seat restaurant to his property.

“In a nutshell we think the full time restaurant proposal, which is in addition to the existing conference center uses, adds a significant, highly impactful use that exceeds the traffic capacity of the access road and negatively impacts the character of the point as well as diminish property values,” Ganley said during a presentation to the planning board. Ganley provided a copy of his remarks to The Republican Journal following the meeting.

During a phone conversation last week, Ganley said there is a long history of desired changes that seem not to fit the vision of the town, including a proposal for the conference center that was rejected by the planning board but later settled following a lawsuit brought by Brooks against the town. Ganley said a conditional permit was granted for the project at that time. Five years ago, Brooks attempted to allow condominiums as well as a spa center on the property.

“There was tremendous local opposition,” Ganley said, adding Brooks received a special exemption permit in 2003 for commercial use.

In 2009, changes to the zoning and land use ordinances in Stockton Springs “made special exemptions moot and everything commercial for all time,” according to Ganley.

He said proper procedures were not followed, as not all abutters were notified of Brooks’ Feb. 25 application to the planning board, or of pre-meetings to discuss those plans as required by the town. While some people were not available, several neighbors spoke to the planning board April 4. The full planning board was not present at the meeting either, Ganley said, adding there were three regular members in attendance as well as one alternate.

“They heard the presentation from the abutters and not one of them spoke positively,” he said. “The planning board is basically trying to broker a deal with the neighbors.”

He said there is confusion regarding the application and if it means the center will be open for weddings, as it is now, in addition to a year-round restaurant.

“The road is too narrow — 15-feet wide — and no shoulders,” Ganley said, adding town rules require roads to be 20-feet wide. “This is going to impact the point and change our lives.”

In his statements to the planning board, Ganley shared some details of the proposed restaurant as well as comments from a road engineer.

“The road engineer we hired in 2003 concurred about the inadequacy of the road when he stated: ‘The Hersey Retreat Road does not meet the minimum road width standard of 20 feet. The Hersey Retreat Road averages 15 feet. Additionally the town standards call for 2-foot wide shoulders. The Hersey Retreat Road does not have very substantive shoulders.’,” Ganley quoted. “This has been a road that served more seasonal than full time residents and an old church retreat. The character and capacity of the road meet those sleepy uses.”

Ganley encouraged members of the planning board to deny the application, or alternatively to require Brooks to bring the entire road “up to standards required by the town’s regulations.”

Ganley said the planning board declined to provide a business plan for the proposed restaurant, citing privacy concerns.

“There’s got to be something there and [Brooks is] not willing to share that information,” he said.

Ganley said his other concern is that the property could be sold to a national chain restaurant if Brooks’ own attempt fails.

“It’s not Camden, it’s not Bar Harbor, it’s sleepy little Stockton Springs,” he said. “If this application isn’t granted, he can continue with the conference center. That is far more desirable.”

Attempts to review Brooks’ application to the planning board were unsuccessful at press time.

No action was taken on the application, and the planning board is expected to further discuss the proposal at a meeting May 2.

Reporter Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 338-3333 or sgrinnell@villagesoup.com.

*Editor’s note: This story was corrected April 24 to reflect the correct spelling of Hersey Retreat Road.