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City to begin reviewing Nordic application

By Stephanie Grinnell | Jul 31, 2019

Belfast — As the city’s Planning Board gears up to begin its review of Nordic Aquafarms’ application, the first meeting addressing the company’s state permits has been pushed back.

The Board of Environmental Protection was scheduled to meet this week in Augusta but some board members had conflicts and the meeting has been rescheduled for Thursday, Aug. 15. BEP is considering applications for the proposed land-based salmon farm in Belfast that include Site Location of Development (SLODA), Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA), Maine Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/Waste Discharge License (MEPDES) and Minor Source Air Emissions permits.

The state Bureau of Parks and Lands already has released preliminary findings that state it will grant Nordic’s submerged lands lease. Comments will be accepted until Friday, Aug. 16, on the preliminary findings; then BPL will issue its final decision on the submerged lands application.

Locally, the Planning Board is responsible for making sure the project meets city requirements and codes. At its next meeting on Monday, Aug. 5, at 6 p.m. at Belfast Boathouse, board members will determine standing of parties of interest in addition to deciding which members will consider the application.

Topics on the agenda include title, right and interest, which will be based only on written submissions from Nordic and parties of interest. As well, board members will consider Nordic’s financial capacity to carry out the project as well as its technical ability. Public hearings will take place on those two topics.

No public hearing will take place around title, right and interest, which has been a hotly contested issue. The board will receive guidance on title, right and interest from City Attorney Bill Kelly.

Last week, attorney Kim Ervin Tucker, on behalf of property owners Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace, submitted additional evidence of ownership of intertidal lands that Nordic hopes to cross with intake and discharge pipes. Mabee and Grace also have filed a lawsuit against the company, seeking to stop placement of the pipes.

Nordic has provided as part of its applications an easement agreement with Richard and Janet Eckrote to bury pipes on their property that would extend across the intertidal flats and into the bay. Ervin Tucker has cited a deed from 1946 in which Harriet Hartley specifies the intertidal area in front of the now-Eckrote property belongs with the property now owned by Mabee and Grace. In response, Nordic submitted redacted release deeds from heirs of Hartley as further proof of its right to cross the Eckrote land and intertidal area.

Ervin Tucker last week said she secured a copy of Hartley’s will, which states that, at the time of her death, Hartley did not own any property in Maine. The attorney points to the will as clear proof that the Hartley heirs have no rights to the Eckrote property and therefore cannot release their ownership rights to Nordic.

The Planning Board will make “rolling findings” as it tackles each part of the lengthy application, according to Wayne Marshall, director of Codes and Planning. Once the entire application has been reviewed and public hearings completed, board members will go back to the rolling findings and could change the final findings if there is new information, Marshall said.

Future Planning Board meetings addressing the Nordic application are scheduled for Aug. 19,  Aug. 26 and Sept. 4. Agendas including topics for each meeting will be posted on the city website and advertised in the Journal.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Aug 01, 2019 07:34

With the out flow pipe crossing the Northport town line........has Nordic Aqua farms done it's required applications to Northport as well?

Posted by: Eric Schrader | Jul 31, 2019 19:11

"The (planning) board will receive guidance on title, right and interest from City Attorney Bill Kelly." Does the City really think that the City attorney is the right choice to advise on a subject as complicated as this application and likewise, is the City going to rely on laymen members of the Planning Board to evaluate this 2 volume submittal. Wayne Marshall is only one person, who shouldn't have the burden of doing it all. Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that the City dodged a bullet on the lawsuit racking up over $ 70,000 of legal bills. Where was the City attorney to advise the City to carefully cross all those "T's" and the dot the "i's" so they wouldn't get sued. Then, the City attorney apparently sends in billings to the City commingling his billable hours, not breaking out the AquaFarm suit, causing the City Manager to ferret through months of invoices. Does this sound like a sophisticated group? The City cannot afford to botch this review or another lawsuit will be down the road from the NAF opponents and the GoFundMe contributors. When the plaintiffs have no skin in the game, i.e. personal money on the line, they'll file nuisance suits to prolong the issuance of a building permit, hoping that Nordic will get fed up with Belfast. Didn't take long for Amazon to leave New York!

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