April 27, 2018

Judge rules Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens can proceed with expansion

Courtesy / Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Courtesy / Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
An architect's rendering shows what the new year-round glass conservatory and gardens when completed in 2019-2020.

About the expansion

Since its opening in 2007, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has become one of the largest public gardens in the country, ranking among the top 10%.

Phase 1 of its original master plan — which was completed in 2011 and included original buildings, infrastructure, gardens, parking and restrooms — was based on a predicted attendance of 40,000 annual visitors.

In fact, CMBG surpassed 40,000 in its second year of operation and in 2017 its attendance surpassed 190,000, including visitors from 63 countries and all 50 states.

Between 2007 and 2017, its staff grew from 10 full-time and 12 part-time employees to 52 full-time and 50 part-time employees.

CMBG's multi-year $30 million expansion has four primary goals, according to the nonprofit's website:

  • To build capacity to enable the botanical gardens to properly serve current and future guests.

  • To foster year-round visitation.

  • To strengthen programming in the botanical garden's key mission areas of horticulture, education, and research.

  • To continue to be a model for best practices surrounding fiscal and environmental sustainability.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens can proceed with its $30 million expansion thanks to a federal ruling earlier this week. A judge approved a consent agreement that settles two lawsuits filed against Boothbay over a Nov. 9, 2017 board of appeals decision halting the project that already was underway.

The Bangor Daily News reported that U.S. District Court Judge Jon D. Levy signed the decree on Tuesday, nearly three weeks after hearing arguments by attorneys for the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, the town of Boothbay and an abutter named as an intervenor in the lawsuits.

Under the consent decree, which was approved by Boothbay selectmen on March 28, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens may now complete all construction as initially approved by the Boothbay Planning Board. The November 2017 decision by the Boothbay Board of Appeals to overturn that building permit is now vacated. The botanical gardens dismissed its claims against the town as part of the settlement, with prejudice, meaning they cannot be filed again.

BDN reported that the town has agreed that the botanical gardens will be treated as "substantially similar to and compatible with an educational facility," which had been opposed by the Anthony family and other abutters.

Under the decree, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens will place a permanent conservation easement on 75 acres of its land within the watershed of Knickerbocker Lake, which neighbors had argued was too fragile and could not withstand further deterioration.

The Boothbay Register reported that Boothbay and the botanical gardens presented arguments for the proposed settlement at the April 5 court hearing, while the Anthony's family lawyer argued against it.

The newspaper reported that in the March 28 vote approving the consent decree, Boothbay Selectmen Chuck Cunningham, Steve Lewis, Dale Harmon and Mike Tomacelli supported the agreement, while Selectman Kristina Ford voted against it.

Read more

Boothbay weighs settlement in Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens legal dispute

Botanical Gardens pursues lawsuit over rescinded $30M expansion permit

Boothbay appeals board halts $30M Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens' expansion

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens plots multimillion-dollar expansion


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