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Guns & Roses do-over review stalls

Planning Board review of high-end weapons business to be rescheduled
By Susan Mustapich | Apr 29, 2021
Source: Zoom Video Conferencing The Lincolnville Planning Board was ready to re-review the Guns & Roses commercial site plan application, but was tripped up when required information was found to be missing.

Lincolnville — The Planning Board met April 28 to undertake its second review of the Guns & Roses application for a high-end weapons business, after its first approval of the business was revoked by the Appeals Board in March.

However, the application review did not take place, as it has now been caught up in additional errors.

Planning Board alternate Jay Foster, who ran the meeting, made it clear that when applications follow the requirements of the Land Use Ordinance, the process goes more smoothly than what was happening with the Guns & Roses application.

He also urged anyone interested or who had opinions on the matter to understand what the Planning Board does.

"The mission of the Planning Board is to review the application against standards in the Ordinance and assure those standards are met. If they’re not, we can refuse to permit the development. If all the standards are met, we can’t say no. We’re not judges passing our opinion on something," he said.

Foster is a former chairman of the Planning Board and longtime member. He was elected to run the meeting because Chairwoman Elizabeth Eudy was not present.

He recapped why the Guns & Roses application, for a new business owned by Garo Armen, had come back to the board.

When the application was first presented to the board Nov. 12, the board had a pre-application meeting and then went through the application and the submissions, Foster said. The Planning Board found the application was complete and voted to confirm that. The Planning Board then met Dec. 9. to review the application against Land Use Ordinance standards and voted to approve the application.

The Planning Board decision was brought before the Appeals Board by appellants who argued they live within 500 feet of Armen's property boundary and had not been notified of the Nov. 12 meeting that initiated the application review, according to Foster.

On March 3, the Appeals Board's 5-0 decision upheld the appellants' argument that they had not been notified, in violation of section 7.3.b of the Commercial Site Plan ordinance, he said. The Appeals Board remanded the matter back to the Planning Board for further action consistent with this decision, Foster said.

After the recap, Foster opened discussion on what the board needed to do next. He first gave his opinion that the board should go back and review the application from the beginning.

His reason was that notification was not given for the Nov. 12 meeting and "the Town Office has received a lot of public input about this situation."

Board members agreed to go back over Armen's application from the beginning. Foster said the board could decide to schedule a public hearing, which is not required, but has been done many times in the past when there was public interest in an application.

Before the review could start, board member William Norfleet asked, "if everyone who needs to be notified has been notified that we’re having this meeting tonight."

That question became a trip wire, which revealed that the letters to abutters had not been sent "certified mail return-receipt requested." This is a requirement of the Land Use Ordinance, and meant the application would not be reviewed April 28, and another meeting would have to be scheduled.

Code Enforcement Officer Frank Therio informed board members that receipts for the abutter letters were not in the packets.

There was uncertainty over how many abutters and others were notified about the April 28 meeting. Therio said there were seven people on the list in the packet provided by the applicant. Amber Hanson, representing Armen, said letters were sent to 14 abutters and those within 500 feet of the property and further, to ensure no one was missed. She said that list was the top page of the packet she sent to the Town Office.

After many back-and-forth questions, it came out that Hanson sent certified letters, but did not take the step to send the letters return receipt requested. Return receipt requires filling out a green cardboard card that gets mailed back to the sender after the letters are delivered. The green card has a tracking number and a bar code and can be viewed electronically on the United States Postal Service website.

Hanson had the Post Office where she mailed the letters produce a letter to confirm who letters were sent to and the tracking numbers. Planning Board members did not have this letter in their packets, but even if they had, Foster said, he did not think it met the ordinance requirement.

Foster pointed out to Hanson that the application submitted for the meeting was dated Oct. 17, 2020, and the names of the people who appealed the Planning Board's decision were not on the list in that application.

"I have to point out that the last time you did this you didn’t notify certain people and that’s what caused the appeal," Foster said.

"In all my years on the Planning Board, this is the first time I’ve ever run into 7.3.b where we didn’t get receipts. I don’t see it’s been a problem for anyone else and don’t understand why it’s a problem in this particular instance," he said.

Foster also asked who had seen the Appeals Board decision. Norfleet said he had not. Hanson had not seen it, and neither she nor Therio knew if it had been sent to Armen.

After it was decided the application review could not take place, board members agreed that they could go through the application to let the applicant know what sections could be waived.

Foster went through all the commercial site plan review submission requirements, noting what could be waived, and asking the Planning Board secretary to record them.

While going through, he mentioned a few things that were not in the application that the board would want to see, including drawings of the driveway and parking in front, the nearest fire hydrant or other water supply, provisions for handling all solid waste and hazardous material, location and type of exterior lighting and location of utilities, including fire protection systems.

He also urged that "the next time the board received the application everything we need is there. Things can go much smoother when the ordinance is simply complied with."

At the end of the meeting, there was only one member of the public who wanted to speak.

Ovid Santaro spoke in support of Armen, whom he has known for 25 years, and expressed concern about what he was hearing in the community about the business. He said Armen's plan "is to sell high-end bespoke firearms — $5,000, $10,000 guns."

He has heard rumors "there’s going to be a firing range, there’s going to be people in and out of there all the time. If someone comes up there once a week, that’s what’s going to happen," he said.

Foster clarified that if the board decides to hold a public hearing, there will be no back-and-forth discourse with participants.

"The purpose is for the public to stand before the Planning Board and voice their opinion or ask questions," he said. "The questions and the information put forth can only be pertinent to the application. We’re not going to sit and listen to people talking about this right and that right and I heard this."

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