Wyeth Reading Room debate may head to court after Appeals Board vote

By Daniel Dunkle | Dec 06, 2017

St. George — After two meetings and hours of discussion, the Appeals Board voted 5-0 Dec. 5 to uphold the Planning Board's approval of plans for a Wyeth Reading Room on Horse Point Road.

Linda Bean's proposal to build the reading room on the narrow, dead-end road met with opposition from neighbors, who argued it is unsafe to create additional traffic there. Six appeals of the Planning Board's original approval of the project were filed, sending it to the Appeals Board.

Opponents of the project have 45 days from the date of the decision to appeal to superior court if they are not satisfied with the Appeals Board's finding.

Attorney Patrick Mellor, representing the Horse Point Road Group, has raised questions about whether the Planning Board took into consideration all of the documents filed by those who opposed the project. He pointed out that Planning Board member Michael Jordan did not join the board until more than two months after the second application was submitted for the reading room. He also submitted as evidence an affidavit from Jordan that lists all of the materials he reviewed to be familiar with the issue, arguing that list does not contain several of the opposition documents.

"There is no question that procedural due process has been violated -- and as a result -- the proceedings before the Planning Board tainted," Mellor wrote in a brief to the Board of Appeals. "Mr. Jordan was a vocal proponent of the project and influenced other members of the board."

The Board of Appeals found that the new Planning Board member had access to the opponents' submissions through the Town Office, along with anyone else who needed access to those materials. Mellor argues that does not display an understanding of due process.

Attorney Paul Gibbons, representing Bean, dismissed the neighbors' statements about safety at the Nov. 16 meeting as "utter nonsense," and "wild speculation." He argued that a reading room with five parking spaces open only by appointment would not create excessive traffic or a safety concern.

There was disagreement between opponents of the project and town boards about whether the safety of adding the reading room at that location had been adequately addressed. A traffic evaluation done by Gorrill-Palmer was included in the materials considered in the debate over the project.

Opponents argued the issue should have been sent back to the Planning Board for further review and a "safety study" of the road conditions should be conducted.

Bean's representatives have characterized the reading room as a summer destination for Wyeth connoisseurs and researchers, rather than a highly trafficked tourist destination. It would make Wyeth-related magazines and books available to the public for free, and would feature wall panels with historical information. It is planned for 20 Horse Point Road, off Route 131. Six parking spaces are planned, and the developer said it would attract minimal traffic.

Artist and illustrator N.C. Wyeth, his son, visual artist Andrew Wyeth, and his grandson, realist painter Jamie Wyeth, form the Midcoast's most famous artistic dynasty.

Linda Bean is a businessperson and former political candidate, granddaughter of Leon Leonwood Bean and heiress of the LL Bean Co.

Daniel Dunkle can be reached at ddunkle@villagesoup.com or 594-4401 ext. 122. Follow him on Twitter @DanDunkle.

Comments (2)
Posted by: VALERIE ANN ORR | Dec 07, 2017 11:13

WELL SAID MR. MONTGOMERY...BUT....  I BELIEVE THE RESIDENTS OF CUSHING WOULD PROBABLY NOT WELCOME IT...OR MAYBE NOT!   TIME WILL TELL...  I LOVE CUSHING...I LOVE THE WYETH FAMILY.  THEY ARE ALL PART OF THE STATE OF MAINE ART HISTORY....



Posted by: Reggie Montgomery | Dec 07, 2017 10:05

The Wyeth's who are well known to people all over the mid coast and have been coming to Maine for decades are not natives of Maine. They all have a good following and almost everyone knows them or knows of them. There is no need for a reading room. If we want to know anything about the Wyeth's, we can ask them. Why not put it in Cushing? There is much more room in Cushing for this if they want it there. The Wyeth's have properties there as well. They also own property on Monhegan. Why make an overcrowded area even more-so?



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