OWLS HEAD — Knox County and Owls Head officials met Tuesday night, Jan. 18 in an effort to find a way to break the impasse over a proposal to erect new hangars at the airport.

No decisions were made, but both sides tried to tamp down the rhetoric over the proposed expansion before the Owls Head Planning Board.

“I hope we can work through this to get a resolution,” County Administrator Andrew Hart said at the Jan. 18 Selectboard meeting.

Owls Head Board Chair Gordon Page agreed.

“We need to get the boiling point down,” Page said.

Knox County Regional Airport Manager Jeremy Shaw told the Selectboard all he wants is for the airport to be treated fairly by the town. He contended the airport was being singled out by the town, which has prevented approval for the proposal to eventually build 23 additional hangars.

Gregg Cohen, a county consultant with Stantec, said he would recommend the voters of Owls Head be asked to amend their shoreland zoning ordinance to remove the property where the hangars would be built. He said there is no shoreland or wetlands that need to be protected in that area.

The current town ordinance prohibits development within 250 feet of any area designated as a forested wetland.

Lynn Chaplin from the town’s Shoreland Ordinance Review Committee said the shoreland zoning maps used by the town were approved by voters in 1991.

She said while the Maine Department of Environmental Protection does not consider forested wetlands, such as those at the airport, as part of shoreland zoning, the state does allow towns to have stricter requirements.

Chaplin said toxins used at the airport would put the forested wetlands at the airport particularly at risk.

“The airport states their safety measures are perfectly safe. So did the owners of Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon, and all the myriads of smaller spills that could poison well water,” Chaplin said.

Chaplin also asked why the county would threaten to sue the town.

At the Knox County Commissioners Jan. 11 meeting, County Commission Chair Dorothy Meriwether suggested the county consider going to court to let a judge rule on the matter.

“We’re at an impasse,” Meriwether said.

County Administrator Hart told the Selectboard the county has no plans to sue the town, and again asked for a resolution. He pointed out the county has been trying to get the project approved since the summer of 2020.

At the Owls Head Selectboard meeting, town Road Commissioner William Leppanen pointed out he was on the town’s Planning Board in the early 1990s when shoreland zoning was placed around the airport. He said members never went and viewed the properties, nor commissioned any engineering to determine if there were any wetlands.

“It was done just from people’s memories. And some of it was just punitive because people didn’t like the airport,” Leppanen said.

The county hired a firm which examined the properties and found no wetlands to support the town’s restrictive zoning at the airport.

The county most recently appeared before the Owls Head Planning Board on Jan. 10 to get approval for eight hangars. The Board found the application complete, but postponed action on the proposal until its Feb. 1 meeting. Airport Manager Shaw said a second phase will call for having 15 additional hangars built.

Shaw said at the Jan. 11 county meeting the hangars would be built by private individuals and taxed by the town. A conservative estimate would be a private investment of more than $5 million, once completed. Each hangar would be individually owned, and would provide revenue for the County and the Town, he said.

In other action at the Owls Head Selectboard’s Jan. 18 meeting, the Board unanimously appointed Eleanor Stone as the town clerk, tax collector, and registrar of voters. She succeeds Susan Wilson as town clerk and tax collector. Wilson retired late last year for health reasons.

Troy Peasley was appointed animal control officer.

Owls Head Selectboard members, from left, Tom VonMalder, Chair Gordon Page, and Linda Post.