This time there’s nowhere Jared Golden can hide

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 9, 2021 – He voted against Nancy Pelosi as speaker twice. He was the only House Democrat to take an oblique position in Donald Trump’s impeachment in 2019 by splitting his vote. In the 116th Congress, he voted against his party’s position 102 times, including a major bill. He was one of two Democrats to vote against the party’s signature gun control legislation.

Is Jared Golden a Democrat or Republican, or as the oft-used moniker a DINO (Democrats in name only)?

All one needs to do is to go to Golden’s Facebook page and read the partisan comments after he offered his condolences to the dead Capitol Hill policeman’s family. It clearly demonstrated the Second District’s split personality and the weight on Golden each time a highly public political action is required.

Les Gibson: Really Mr. Golden?While Officer Sicknick’s death is an absolute tragedy, and one that should not have happened, where are your words of sympathy for the shooting death of the female Air Force veteran from San Diego?Do you have no regard for your fellow veterans?The manner in which you cherry pick things is reprehensible.

Maureen Craig Harding Will you be supporting Impeachment this time around, DEMOCRATIC Representative Golden? Trump bears responsibility for Officer Sicknick’s murder. I ask you to support impeachment.

in late 2019 Golden became the only member of the House to split his decision on a historic matter with grave implications for the president and the nation’s political landscape. His unusual choice to charge Mr. Trump with abuse of power but not with obstruction of Congress left him open to criticism from both parties.

Stephen King famously tweeted, “If my congressman, Jared Golden, votes for only one article of impeachment, I will work with all my might to see him defeated next year.”

The flipside was when a conservative advocacy group began a $2.5 million ad buy against lawmakers who won Trump districts and voted for impeachment, Mr. Golden was at the top of its list.

As it turned out Golden managed to win re-election on Nov. 3, prompting some in the media to hail that he could be a candidate for the Senate seat in 2024 should Angus King choose not to run at Age 80.

But before that he’ll need to win re-election in 2022 in the notoriously volatile mid-terms. That will not be a slam dunk. Golden won re-election during the pandemic year against his opponent, a paraplegic who could not campaign with mobility around the huge Second District. Even then, he won with only 53 percent of the vote, as opposed to Chellie Pingree, who gathered 61 percent in the First District. In two years, with Trump gone, a less strident Republican candidate could retake the district, which was held by Republican Bruce Poliquin until 2018.

That may be why Golden has been stiff-arming his home state journalists on the question of the proposed resolution to impeach Trump a second time. He refused to address the question posed by Colin Woodard, perhaps the best journalist in Maine.

Woodard wrote in the Portland Press Herald today, “Golden said that the president was responsible for Wednesday’s “violence and lawlessness, and he should be held accountable,” but did not commit to a position on what form that accountability should take.

The New York Times wrote, shortly after Golden split his vote, “The political risks for Mr. Golden also underscore how difficult it has become for a lawmaker who is willing to cross party lines on some of the most fraught issues to survive and stake out a role for himself in Congress at a time when partisan loyalty is more expected than ever.”

To which Golden replied:

“It might be a lonely place for me to be in Washington … but it’s not a lonely place for me to be here in Maine, and in my district.”

The Times added:

“That dynamic, to some political observers, made Mr. Golden’s decision to back only one of two impeachment articles all the more perplexing. He argued that the obstruction of Congress charge against Mr. Trump was not warranted because House Democrats had not fought hard enough in the courts to try to force critical administration officials to testify in their impeachment inquiry. The decision, he said, was not a political calculation, but about establishing a solid precedent.

“People were automatically going to this cynical place of, ‘This young freshman thinks he can get away with pleasing both sides,’” said Mr. Golden, 38. “‘He doesn’t understand he’s about to get run over by a Mack truck that’s coming right down the middle of the road.’”

Sometimes his action can come perilously close to major implications. Pelosi won re-election as speaker by only seven votes, 216 as opposed to 209 for Republican Kevin McCarthy, minority leader who signed onto a lawsuit that sought to overturn results in four states that Trump lost to President-elect Joe Biden. 

“I vote with the Democratic Party like 88 percent of the time,” Mr. Golden said. “That’s, I think, a perfect way to step back and compare it to past Congresses and see how truly divided and partisan Congress has become — that I’m now one of the standout members.”

No doubt about that. If Golden chooses against impeachment next week, he will surely stand out.

Nonconforming is not a dirty word; the Graces of NEH think otherwise

Photo of the Grace’s house at 10 Barnacles Way, Northeast Harbor, and visible new house under construction next door.

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 9, 2021 – Think twice before inviting Bill and Marjorie Grace and Heather Evans for drinks on the porch next summer at the same time.

It’s not because of their geographical distancing. They live next to each other. Or more precisely, they own summer homes next to each other.

It’s not because of social standing. They are Northeast Harbor semi-royalty.

It’s because the neighbors are engaged in a mano a mano zoning dispute that has lawyers, town boards and various arbiters thrust into an imbroglio which could well last into the rest of 2021 and beyond.

And this show is coming live to a Zoom screen near you Wednesday Jan. 13 at 6 p.m., as it is the second item on the Mount Desert planning board’s agenda.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82850431734?pwd=azZvK0dOSTlzcStHSHpxaEtRVVZTZz09 

Meeting ID: 828 5043 1734  Password: 016906

Cheek by jowl. Owner wants to demolish house at right which is ‘non-conforming

It’s not the longest ongoing zoning fight in the town of Mount Desert. That distinction would belong to Hall Quarry, where residents have held up an application to restart a quarry business for more than six years.

This case is a familiar tussle between people of means against the realities of a small town, which couldn’t even muster enough zoning appeals board members to hear the Graces’ case for three months. And what did the appeals board do when it finally got a quorum in late November? It kicked it back to the planning board which had already approved the application for the new building. The application is 7-month-old and counting.

The owners of 9 Barnacles Way in Northeast Harbor acquired the lot and then proceeded to build two houses designed by Matthew Baird, an architect of some renown with a minimalist sensibility and copious use of shingles and wood siding. They first built a house on the water and were in the process of building a second home, when they acquired the house next to the Graces – 11 Barnacles Way – to complete a “family compound” consisting of three stand-alone homes.

Only no one apparently told the Graces, who own the house at 10 Barnacles Way. In June they appeared on Zoom at the planning board to say legal notices of such application for construction did not reach them and that it was their opinion the proposed house next to theirs is out of scope for a “non-conforming” use. It would be too high and encroached on the setback abutting them,

Marjorie Grace then declared she did not care for construction next door during the summer. (Mount Desert does not have a noise ordinance and many summer residents do not understand that the loud screeching noise emanating from your neighbor’s construction of a new addition is not an infringement of local ordinance.) As a side note, the Grace family once owned a swimming camp on Long Pond and became the bete noir of all the residents when they introduced jet skis which were eventually banned.

The Grace’s challenge to 9 Barnacles Way is a test of what passes for acceptable land-use in a century-old warren of pretzel-shaped lots that predate zoning. The operative word is “nonconforming” – a widely misunderstood concept that has many believing that a home which does not conform to current zoning may not be altered, expanded, stirred or shaken.

The problem started at its inception when the Graces did not even acknowledge receipt of information sent to abutters about a significant project next door. After the vapor of that contretemps settled, the serious business of the day took shape. The new owners of the house at 11 Barnacles Way wanted to demolish a “nonconforming” house and replace it with another house but 30 percent larger. Trouble was the Graces at 10 Barnacles Way are about a long putt away, their back step practically serves as a landing for the house next door, which is less than the 75 feet from the water and less than 25 feet away from the Graces. In other words, not in conformance with the current land-use ordinance.

Architect Baird recently sent this to the code enforcement officer, “Attached please find a pdf of the clarified height calculations that we reviewed in the hearing on 6/10.  

The situation was made more complicated because the Graces apparently don’t even know the names of the new neighbors, who have been operating under the legal shingle of the Lapsley Family LLC, which was created by the three Lapsley children in 2013. But Robert Lapsley of Seattle told QSJ they sold the property two years ago to a Heather Evans of Northeast Harbor. In the latest filing, the owners are now identified as Otium LLC, with Mary Costigan of law firm Bernstein Shur in Portland as their representative. Costigan did not return multiple emails and calls from QSJ.

Photo of first of three Barnacles Way homes designed by architect Matthew Baird to create a family compound

QSJ had no luck tracking down Heather Evans. The new owner continued to use the name Lapsley Family LLC in its filings last summer seeking planning board approval.

Meanwhile, David Perkins, the Grace’s lawyer, has been more obliging.

He told QSJ that the planning board erred in June when it approved the Lapsley’s application for expansion without giving consideration that nonconforming changes should be subject to “strict” interpretation of Maine’s “settled case law” that “disfavored” any development which would make a non-conforming situation even more non-conforming. He said the planning board chose a “liberal” interpretation which makes it inconsistent with case law.

QSJ is not a lawyer but several observations are worth noting.

The planning board consists of members who are more schooled at the local land-use ordinance than members of the zoning appeals board. They meet regularly, whereas the appeals board only meets when there is an appeal. The planning board, and members of the selectmen board, are the only town boards which receive a stipend (a maximum of $3,000 a year for planning board members depending on the number of meetings they attend) as to demonstrate the special need and priority of these two important boards. They also have an expert – a code enforcement officer – to assist with their deliberations. Lastly, they conduct site visits for each application.

The zoning board of appeals on the other hand has had trouble fulfilling its duty for most of 2020 and now into 2021. Its chairman, William Ferm, has not returned any of the emails or phone messages left for him since November by QSJ. It does not have professional advice from a code enforcement officer and it does not conduct site visits.

At its last meeting on Nov. 24, members were obviously caught unaware of the complexities of “nonconforming.” It debated height restrictions and setbacks without resolving any of the issues. So it “remanded” the application back to the planning board.

This ping-pong game could go on for some time. The planning board could take its time. When and if it gets back to the appeal board, that could be well into late 2021 given that board’s difficulty getting a quorum. Whatever the decision, the Graces could tie it up with a lawsuit against the town which would soak taxpayers for legal fees.

This is not to say the planning board cannot err. Indeed, the appeals board’s overturning of the planning board’s controversial 2017 rejection of the Hall Quarry application was later supported by Maine’s Superior Court.

While the system may seem to be fair, it is not. The loss of time for the applicant is a real loss. What’s more valuable for the wealthy than time? The Graces may tie it up in the courts for years, thereby ensuring many quiet summers. The Hall Quarry residents have enjoyed seven years of quiet since they began their protest.

Perkins, lawyer for the Graces, contended that owners of the 9 and 11 Barnacles Way have not delivered their promises as represented by their architect, making it hard to settle the grievances privately. The promise of better natural buffers, for instance, have not materialized, he said.

Given the challenges of the zoning board of appeals which add cost, time and stress on citizens and homeowners who only wish to see a better quality of life, it seems an easy solution to fortify the ZBA with the same expertise and stipend as afforded the planning board. The town of Mount Desert can certainly afford it.

Acadia National Park does not monitor air pollution from cruise ships

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 9, 2021 – Acadia National Park’s air quality monitoring data does not correlate cruise ship activities outside of the park to air quality in the park, a spokesperson for the park confirmed.

This was a validation of a previous QSJ post citing park biologist William Gawley as verifying that the park’s air pollution monitors are incapable of detecting pollution emitted by cruise ships in Bar Harbor.

“It is my understanding that Kevin Schneider, Superintendent of Acadia National Park addressed this issue at a Bar Harbor Town Council meeting. He referenced the fact that this park is a Class 1 airshed under the Clean Air Act which requires us to have the best air in the nation and that we do monitoring in conjunction with Maine DEP,” Christie Anastasia of the Park Service, wrote in an email. “What really drives our air quality metrics is pollution generated from outside the state – cars and power plants in Northeast and Midwest. We do not have a direct correlation between cruise ships and air quality monitoring in the park.

Some members of the town council and the industry-dominated Bar Harbor cruise ships committee have used Schneider’s comments as giving the cruise ships a clean bill of health when it comes to air pollution.

In fact, several readers of QSJ wrote that air pollution from the cruise ships are much worse that was reported in an earlier QSJ post.

A reader, Jim O’Connell, scolded QSJ, writing:

“This article fails in its assessment when it states 700 trucks worth of So2 are emitted when a typical 10-hour visit with the ‘Anthem of the Seas’ 1100 feet long will put out 40,000 idling semi trucks worth of carcinogenic SO2. A code violation on our downtown by 4,500,000 times.”

Subsequent emails to Mr. O’Connell were not returned.