Councilors voted Jan. 19 to hire Kate Grossman to represent and advise the Zoning Board of Appeals as it considers challenges to the Planning Board’s decision to permit Nordic Aquafarms’ proposed land-based fish farm.

City Attorney Bill Kelly is unable to represent the Appeals Board because he will act as representative for the Planning Board during the Appeals Board’s review.

Grossman is a Monroe native who works for the Bangor firm of Farrell, Rosenblatt & Russell. Kelly worked with her on a court case in the past and was impressed by how well she represented the client in that case, he told councilors.

Grossman served on the Winterport Town Council and has experience in municipal law, City Planner Wayne Marshall said.

The city will be billed an estimated $160 per hour for her services, which Marshall said is reasonable. The city has budgeted $20,000 from the undesignated fund balance as a starting point, but might increase that amount depending on how many appeals have to be considered. Marshall expects that the Appeals Board will have to review 1,500 to 2,000 documents.

The city will make up some of those funds with the appeal fee, he said. Aggrieved parties must pay $3,000 per appeal, pay for advertising regarding that appeal and for any copies of the record they intend to use in the appeal. However, some permit appeals cost more than others.

Opponents claimed the fees were equivalent to $8,000 in a press release and letter to the editor in The Republican Journal. Marshall said he does not understand where they got that number. “I don’t know what 'equivalent to $8,000' means,” he said.

They also stated that Nordic had to pay less to submit its permit applications than opponents do to file an appeal. But Marshall said Nordic paid about $102,100 in fees for the city attorney, meeting rental spaces and city salaries.

Only parties of interest in the case can submit an appeal within 30 days of the board’s decision, Marshall said. Upstream Watch filed appeals on all five permits. No other parties of interest submitted appeals.

The group claims that the Planning Board violated the city code by permitting Nordic when the company had not fully met application requirements; rather, the board has allowed Nordic to complete certain permit requirements after the permits were approved.

The review is limited only to information in the Planning Board’s record and no new evidence will be allowed, Marshall said. The Appeals Board is considering only whether the board’s decision was made in accordance with the city’s ordinances.

Opponents have also filed court appeals on the Board of Environmental Protection’s application decision, which are not expected to be considered until this summer, Upstream Watch President Amy Grant said.

There is still a property dispute waiting to be heard over the intertidal area where Nordic intends to bury its intake and outfall pipes. Intervenors Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace claim they own the intertidal area in dispute, but Janet and Richard Eckrote claim they own the mudflat in front of their upland property.

The first Appeals Board meeting will be Thursday, Feb. 18, at 6 p.m., aired on BEL TV, where it will discuss an organized schedule of review.