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November 13, 2018

Court sides with Damariscotta in Main Street development suit

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Dan Catlin, CEO of Commercial Properties of Portland, shown in this file photo, found himself at the center of a debate over development in Damariscotta. A Nov. 2 ruling in Maine Superior Court, however, dealt a setback to opponents of the project, who the judge said lacked standing to block the development. The opponents have until Nov. 23 to appeal that decision.

Opponents of the proposed 435 Main St. development in Damariscotta have until Nov. 23 to appeal a Maine Superior Court decision that has dealt a setback to their lawsuit.

Judge Daniel Billings ruled Nov. 2 that a group of Damariscotta residents did not have standing in their complaint to block the development, the Lincoln County News reported last week.

The project, proposed in 2017 by Commercial Properties Inc. CEO Daniel Catlin, would consist of three structures: a 22,000-square-foot building for two retail spaces, a 5,525-square-foot building with three commercial spaces, and a 2,700-square-foot bank with a drive-through.

But plans stalled for three months because of a citizen-initiated moratorium on new development, approved by the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen in August 2017. After the moratorium failed in a public referendum, the Planning Board approved the project and it appeared poised to move ahead.

In March, 12 residents calling themselves Our Town unsuccessfully appealed the board decision, and lost an attempt to have the appeal reconsidered in April.

Damariscotta-based attorneys Peter Drum and Jonathan Hull, representing the group, then took their complaint to Superior Court. The filing cited over 10 reasons why the Planning Board allegedly violated town ordinances, including not requiring the project to include a pedestrian walkway system and allowing one of the proposed buildings to have "false pitched roof arrays" rather than a pitched roof.

But Billings affirmed the appeals board decision that Our Town did not participate actively in town meetings before the project's approval, and so lacked the standing to sue.

"Because Our Town cannot show that its members stepped forward, identified themselves during the proceedings, and spoke on behalf of the group, it cannot show active participation throughout the proceedings," Billings wrote.

Now Catlin is eager to resume work on the project.

"We're reviewing our next step as far as construction and timeline," he told the newspaper. "We're certainly excited to get the project moving."

Our Town is considering an appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, attorney Drum said.

Read more

Damariscotta project, stalled by moratorium, moving ahead for a groundbreaking in spring

Debate continues over Damariscotta's proposed moratorium

Divided over development: Damariscotta's move to find balance leaves developer in tough spot

Public split on Damariscotta commercial development proposal

Petition seeks to halt Damariscotta commercial development

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