Feb 23, 2017

Controversial plan for ramp and flat in bird-rich Watts Cove mudflat wins appeal

SAINT GEORGE.  Last night the Saint George town office hosted the latest fight between attorneys sparring  before the Planning Board for  the two sides in a longterm  struggle for and against keeping Watts Cove, a natural tidal flat, free of piers and floats. All are invited.   St George town office location map

The Saint George Board of Appeals meeting was called  after shoreland property owners Bryce and Gail Molloy  found  the Town Planning Board on January 10, 2017 had ruled against them one more time  again rejecting the application  put a ramp and float into Saint George's biodiverse Watts Cove.

 This had followed the  December 15th decision by Saint George Board of Appeals to send the application back to the planning board. That decision followed  the November 17, 2016 appeal by Bryce & Gail Molloy of the rejection of  their second application on October 4th  to build a ramp with chained floats extending out from the shore of Watts Cove, a small intertidal embayment of the tidal Saint George River.

Saint George resident Matt Stern, a member of the  Significant Wildlife Preservation Committee  a prominent opponent of the Molloy plan, said that not all waterfront is the same.    

 "If you want a place to use powerboats and jets skis" he said, "maybe that shouldn't be done in a  wildlife area that's a mudflat. Maybe you should have another place to do that."  Listen to Matt Stern February 18th interview on WRFR Community Radio 22min

According to Stern, Watts Cove's importance for wildlife is well documented by Maine  Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.  Stern and other concerned Saint George residents in the Significant Wildlife Preservation Committee  commissioned  environmental consultants Paul Leeper of Moody Mtn Env. (report)) and Sr Ecologist Richard Podolski PhD of the Ecology And Technology firm, (report) . Both identify Watts Cove and surrounds as high quality, highly productive estuarine shore and wading bird and shellfish habitat.

Ron Huber of Friends of Penobscot Bay noted that like many bay towns, Saint George's ordinance looks at all of its shorefront as having more or less the same economic and ecological value. 

"We know that this is not the case", he said. "Communities need to adopt ordinances protective of their irreplaceable  natural shoreland and marine habitats and scenic areas. This can be done without running afoul of  laws and ordinances protecting landowners' property rights."

"The state has come up with ways to evaluate the quality of  every town's scenic resources. This can help  steer development away from what is irreplaceable," Huber said. 

Stern noted that the  ordinance" kind of looks at all waterfront as the same". 

We are at a juncture," he said.

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