Palmyra tries to work with 81-year-old resident over porch issue to avoid court

Raymond Phelps, 81, of Palmyra is being sued by the town because an addition on his home and a porch are partly on the town right-of-way along Route 100.
Raymond Phelps, 81, of Palmyra is being sued by the town because an addition on his home and a porch are partly on the town right-of-way along Route 100. Buy Photo
Posted Feb. 03, 2012, at 6:08 p.m.

PALMYRA, Maine — Palmyra town officials said they still are willing to work with an 81-year-old resident whose porch is not in compliance with town rules.

Raymond Phelps has been fighting the town to keep the porch he built on the side of his house.

The Board of Selectmen went into executive session during its last meeting on Jan. 25 to discuss the town’s legal rights and duties regarding the matter.

“We will be working with Mr. Phelps to find some kind of agreement,” Chairwoman Vondel Dunphy said after the executive session.

Selectman Mike Cray said the town has been trying to get Phelps to comply for nearly two years. The town finally saw no choice but to sue Phelps. The matter was heard in Skowhegan District Court on Jan. 23.

At the hearing, Judge Peter Darvin seemed concerned that Phelps didn’t understand the ramifications if the town prevailed in the case.

“You’re potentially facing some significant financial penalties,” said Darvin.

Phelps and Gary Beem, chairman of the planning board, said last month that the issue revolved around a 75-foot setback from the center of Oxbow Road.

But Cray said that isn’t the case. He said Phelps received a permit to build a porch on the side of his house, but he built beyond what the permit called for.

Cray said town officials will meet with Phelps on Monday morning to try to resolve the issue without going back to court.

“We’re going to outline it for him to come into compliance. We have some options to be able to do that,” Cray said Friday after talking with Phelps’ son Raymond Phelps III in Newport. “I don’t think it will cost him anything to do that. We’re really working with him and I think [Phelps’ son] really saw that.”

Members of the Board of Selectmen said the 75-foot setback was put in place after Phelps received his permit for the porch. If he makes the porch come into compliance, he won’t have to worry about the setback ordinance, said Cray.

“To make this work, he has to come back into compliance,” said Cray. “He will have to take off the roof and the addition he’s put on, and he should be back into compliance.

“From our point, we’re working with him to come up with a reasonable solution for both the town and for Raymond. We’re not trying to kick him out of his house,” he said. “I think we got it pretty well worked out, but we have to run it by [Phelps] first.”

If Phelps accepts the town’s solution, it will move to the Board of Selectmen for approval, said Cray. If Phelps rejects it, the court process will move forward.

“It all hinges on what he wants to do,” said Cray.

Phelps could not be reached for comment Friday.

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