2007 Jul 13
by Marie Jones Holmes
A proposed zoning ordinance amendment concerning artwork in public places and statements from Quoddy Bay LNG attracted a larger than usual public attendance at the July 9 meeting of the Eastport City Council.
A letter from Quoddy Bay LNG was read at the council meeting in response to a protest the City of Eastport had filed on June 21 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The filing stated that both the location and the unconventional design of the Quoddy Bay LNG project pose undue safety and security risks to the people of Eastport. A July 9 letter from Brian Smith, Quoddy Bay LNG project manager, was read by Deputy Project Manager Adam Wilson. It stated, "I received your e-mail from Mr. Schuth [Eastport city councillor] last week which indicated that the council did not wish to meet with us to openly discuss the protest the City of Eastport filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. I am writing, however, in response to your e-mail, in hopes to foster open communication and dialogue with the city and its representatives, in spite of your recent denial of our request to do that at the Eastport City Council meeting tonight. I am writing this letter to try to change the tone of silence and separation and again invite the city council members and members of the public to participate in a constructive dialogue with the company and the Pleasant Point Reservation to ensure that, if the Quoddy Bay LNG facility is built and becomes operational, you are comfortable that the local communities are safe, secure and receive the maximum benefit from the facility. We will continue to invite you and all other stakeholders to important meetings, and if at anytime the council chooses to take us up on our offer for an open dialogue, we would be happy to attend."
Smith pointed out that Quoddy Bay and their extensive team of experts in Washington believe the legal arguments put forth in the city's protest are flawed in that the regulations cited do not apply as argued by Eastport. "Although Quoddy Bay LNG believes those regulations do not pertain to this project, we ensured that our pipelines had equivalent or better safety measures than would be required in those regulations if they were applicable." He also stated, "We feel that had the city taken us up on our requests to include the fire and police chiefs in our various safety and security meetings held over the past several months, the city would be fully informed that the pipelines running under Route 190 do not pose any significant threat to Route 190 greater than the current threats of automobile accidents, downed power lines, or intentional blockage of the road for whatever reason."
"Years ago we were criticized in your city, even by your officials, for not communicating enough. For the past several months, Eastport has simply refused to communicate with us."
On July 11 the city's legal counsel, Kimberly Cook of Portland, responded to Quoddy Bay's statements concerning lack of communication on the part of the city and the Eastport City Council. Eastport's legal counsel points out that Quoddy Bay LNG was allowed to present information about their project at two previous city council meetings as well as the July 9 council meeting. The letter notes that, in addition, representatives of the city, including Councillor Lewis, City Manager Finch, Police Chief Vinson and Fire Chief Richard Clark, have attended meetings with Quoddy Bay LNG and have expressed concerns about the placement of the LNG facility at Route 190. The city representatives have also participated in an emergency response planning conference. The city will also be participating in the Maine State Planning Office's emergency response planning conference at the end of July in Augusta. "Furthermore, we have commented publicly on the projects, and our concerns in the 'open forum' for the media," the release from the legal counsel states. It also points out that, as Councillor Schuth has stated, "At no point have we felt that Quoddy Bay LNG has taken our safety and security concerns seriously or made any serious attempt to accommodate our concerns in their proposed project design."
During the council meeting, a letter was also submitted to the city council by Philip Farrell Jr., landlord representative for the Passamaquoddy Tribe for LNG. The letter stated, "We have received media reports of your objection to the Quoddy Bay LNG project proposed for Pleasant Point. While it is not our nature or practice to communicate with our neighbors through the media, we must respond directly to you and request that you communicate directly with us should you have any concerns regarding our plans to develop our economy and as a result improve the economic situation of our neighbors throughout Washington County. Please be advised that we do intend to file our response to your objections with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the coming days, however we feel it would not be appropriate to do so without first giving you the opportunity to discuss this matter first."
Farrell further stated, "The Passamaquoddy people have long enjoyed peaceful and productive relations with their neighbors since you first stepped foot on the shore of Passamaquoddy Bay. Our many contributions to your comfort include our direct participation in the protection of your community during the War for Independence. Many more countless contributions over the years have been at great expense to the Passamaquoddy people, and still we made them without complaint as we have done for many hundreds of years. Today you enjoy free passage through the Pleasant Point community, again at great risk to the safety and security of our members. Your commerce is greatly aided by your ability to move commercial goods and many dangerous and hazardous materials through our community, upon a road next to which our children routinely play and our people walk upon daily. Again at tremendous risk to the safety, security and overall health of our community. Indeed the very survival of your public institutions and many businesses depend to a large degree on the millions in commerce afforded your community by ours, yet we find you objecting strenuously to our efforts to improve our own."
Farrell said, "We find the nature of your objections troublesome and the manner through which you choose to inform the Passamaquoddy people of your concerns most disrespectful. Perhaps your objections to this important opportunity would be better understood had you responded to our numerous offers to engage in discussion from the beginning." Farrell stresses, "That only through effective communications will we be able to gain an understanding of our mutual concerns. Perhaps then we may find greater cooperation between our communities. We do not have to agree with each other on what is best for the region, but we should not refrain from establishing and maintaining effective communications, especially when we are bound so closely by our local economies." Farrell closed his letter by stating, "By agreeing to give you the right to cross our land we did not intend that you should govern our use of it."
Following the reading of Smith's letter, City Councillor Schuth and City Manager George Finch both said Quoddy Bay LNG was allowed to present its proposal to the city at two separate meetings and the city officials as well as the police and fire chiefs had attended meetings with Quoddy Bay. Schuth stated, "At no point have we felt that Quoddy Bay has taken our expressed concerns seriously or made any serious attempt to accommodate them in their project design. The city therefore has been compelled to file its protest with FERC to ensure the health, welfare, safety and security of our community."
While there was no public discussion of the various letters, under open forum, a member of the audience, Andre Melanson, asked if it was true that the city had received a check for $25,000 to help in their intervenor status. The city manager and the councillors said they had not seen or heard of such a check. Melanson also raised a question concerning a conflict of interest involving a member of the legal firm engaged by the city to prepare material for intervenor status.
Schuth says a member of the legal firm engaged by the city, Scott Sells, has represented another intervenor in the process. Sells disclosed this fact in the beginning, and it is not felt that this will impede his ability to represent Eastport.
A public hearing was held on a proposed zoning ordinance addition submitted by the Eastport Historic Review Board. The proposed amendment, which was approved by the council, will read: "The City Council may appoint a committee to assist with the selection of public artwork. In issuing a request for proposals, the committee will provide a prospectus detailing requirements for the artwork. The process for selecting public artwork shall include review, as appropriate, by the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Historic Review Board. The City Council shall make final approval. Guidelines for the selection of artwork should include the following criteria: artwork can serve the purposes of being educational, beautifying the community or providing a recognition of the community's past; artwork should be related in terms of scale, material, form and content to adjacent buildings and landscaping so that it complements the site and surrounding environment; and artwork should be durable relative to the elements, theft and vandalism, with consideration given to short-term and long-term maintenance, financial implications to the city, and length of time to complete the project."
In submitting the proposed ordinance the Historic Review Board cited the following justification: "This zoning ordinance amendment is necessary to ensure a consistent process is followed by the city in permitting any public artwork. It specifies that the process will allow for comment from appropriate municipal boards and the public. It provides general guidelines to be used in the selection process to ensure that the artwork will be appropriate for its location."
While several members of the public spoke in favor of the zoning amendment, Greg Biss said he was troubled by several criteria in the proposed amendment. "Input is great, but I am troubled by the language." Biss raised a question about the term "related to." Biss said, "I don't support it."
Councillor Schuth also questioned the amendment, saying it could raise more questions than it would solve. Schuth feels there is need for additional study of the amendment. Edward French, chairman of the review board, replied, "If you are proposing changes, we have come to the council twice. What is written out is clear. It is good for the council to listen to what the community says." Following the public hearing, the council approved the amendment with Councillors Lewis, Small and McGarvey voting in favor of it and Councillor Schuth opposing the amendment. Councillor Leppin was absent.
Merilyn Mills was appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The council approved an application from the Eastport Chamber of Commerce for a liquor license. The license would allow the sale of wine during the salmon festivities.
Finch said the transition of the Boat School to its new life as the Maine Marine Technology Center is progressing well.
Eastport resident Eleanor Norton thanked the council for the additional policeman for downtown, noting that it is very helpful.
Following adjournment of the council meeting, councillors went into executive session to discuss personnel matters and legal matters. No action was taken following executive session.
© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.