Court rejects appeal by neighbors of Linda Bean's Wyeth reading room

By Stephen Betts | Dec 14, 2018
Source: Stephen G. Smith Architects The Wyeth Reading Center in St. George is shown in an artist's rendering.

St. George — A state judge has denied an appeal by five neighbors opposed to a Wyeth Reading Center being developed by Linda Bean.

Justice Bruce Mallonee said in a Dec. 11 ruling in Knox County Superior Court that the court was "not charged with evaluating the esthetic value of the Wyeth Reading Room, the degree to which it might degrade the ambience of the neighborhood, or the overall wisdom of placing it on the proposed site."

"The court is disabled from reconsidering the Planning Board's evaluation of both lay and expert evidence bearing on the potential danger of increased traffic in this isolated rural setting. Plaintiffs' argument elegantly reprises the points they presented to the board, but provides no legal basis for vacating the board's decision. The court is therefore compelled to deny the appeal," the judge stated.

The project is being developed on Horse Point Road, a narrow, less-than-one-mile-long road off Route 131. The road ends at property called Eight Bells, named after a house once owned by N.C. Wyeth that was made famous by a Winslow Homer painting.

The St. George Planning Board approved the Wyeth Reading Room Sept. 26, 2017, and the town's Board of Appeals upheld that decision Dec. 5, 2017.

"Justice was done. The court upheld the decision of the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, and Linda Bean’s Wyeth Reading Room will be an important contribution to the community," said attorney Paul Gibbons of Camden, who represents Bean.

Five neighbors calling themselves the Horse Point Road Group -- Robert and Patricia Hughes, Sandra Dickson Coggeshall, Jonathan Coggeshall and Anita Sigenthaler -- filed an appeal with the court asking the judge to send the matter back to the Planning Board.

Bean's representatives characterized the reading room as a summer destination for people interested in researching the Wyeth family of artists. The 1,400-square-foot building would make Wyeth-related magazines and books available to the public for free, and would feature wall panels with historical information..

The center would be located at 20 Horse Point Road. Five parking spaces are planned, and the developer said it would attract minimal traffic.

The Planning Board imposed a condition that the reading room may be open by appointment only, and must have a sign clearly stating that to discourage drop-in visitors.

The neighbors, however, claim that the road is already unsafe and the reading center would add traffic that would endanger the hundreds of pedestrians and children on bicycles.

The appeal also claimed that the due process rights of the residents were violated because a member of the Planning Board, Michael Jordan, has been a vocal proponent of the project.

The neighbors are represented by attorney Patrick Mellor of Rockland.

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