Candidate faces multiple state fines

Published 11:48 am Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Staff Writer

When Bath’s Cindy Baldwin gave a speech during the Beaufort County Republican Party’s convention last month, she announced that she and her husband, John, were facing $25,000 in environmental fines assessed by the state.
The fines were levied because of alleged compliance issues related to the couple’s development activities, Baldwin said later.
“That’s really the reason why I’m here,” the Republican told party members at the convention. “I found out what government regulation does to small business.”
On Monday, Baldwin sat down with the Washington Daily News to answer questions about the fines and other reported issues related to her status as a developer.
“My family’s been to hell and back,” she said.
Baldwin contends that she and her husband have been unfairly targeted by the local government in Bath and by some town residents.
“They only want who they want in the town,” she said.
Calls seeking response from town officials were not immediately returned Tuesday. One town official who was reached by telephone declined to comment.
John Hennessy, supervisor in the nonpoint-source compliance unit of the N.C. Division of Water Quality in Raleigh, said public documents show the Baldwins have appealed assessments against them.
The Baldwins are contesting the fines and have elected to have a hearing before an administrative-law judge, one of three options open to people who are fined by DWQ, Hennessy said.
According to Hennessy, three fines are outstanding.
The fines are:
• a $25,353.29 civil penalty against Bath Bridgewater South for alleged effects on riparian buffers of Adams Creek and Bath Creek and an unnamed tributary of Bath Creek;
• a $7,247.43 civil penalty against the Baldwins on their property for alleged effects on a riparian buffer at Catnip Point;
• a $5,247 assessment against the Baldwins for an alleged issue regarding Lot 22 at Bath Bridgewater South.
Those assessments total $37,847.72.
In 2007, the Baldwins also faced an assessment of $13,374.62 for an alleged problem in Bath Bridgewater South, related Hennessy.
The 2007 fine has been paid, he said.
In a separate proceeding, a court filing dating to October 2009 pits eight Bath residents against the town and the Quarterdeck, a waterfront store-and-pier operation owned by the Baldwins.
The residents who are suing allege that proposed changes to the Quarterdeck, approved by the town, would create a nuisance along Back Creek.
Last summer, the Bath Board of Commissioners opted to avoid fully permitting alterations that the Baldwins said would have enhanced the Quarterdeck.
In an August 2009 meeting, the board did permit some changes to the store sought by the Baldwins under town zoning ordinances.
“Obviously, he (John Baldwin) wants to serve as many people as he can, and we want his business to be a success,” Town Attorney Wayland Sermons said at that meeting.
(Sermons is no longer the town attorney and now serves as a Superior Court judge.)
On Monday, Baldwin said that, because of the lawsuit, she and her husband had yet to install stairs to the roof of the Quarterdeck as approved by the board.
“This is a case of bullying, and I don’t want anybody to go through what we did,” she stated.
On another front, Baldwin said she and her husband have settled with the town regarding a road-surfacing controversy in a development. That issue was taken to the N.C. Court of Appeals.
Those and other run-ins with Bath and the state haven’t deterred Baldwin from seeking her party’s nomination to run for three available seats on the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.
She ran for a seat on the Bath board in last year’s municipal elections, but lost, coming in third behind incumbents Marty Fulton and Jay Hardin.
Citing the ongoing lawsuit, Hardin declined to comment on Baldwin’s candidacy.4