May 24, 2018
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Lawsuit over Appleton house put on hold

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

APPLETON, Maine — A 3-year-old legal battle over the construction of a house on the Searsmont Road has been put on hold pending action by a local board on a new variance request.

Justice Jeffrey Hjelm agreed Feb. 9 in Knox County Superior Court to approve a request by both the town of Appleton and residents Paul and Rita Gagnon and Patrick and Lorie Costigan to put a legal appeal on hold.

The neighbors had challenged a variance granted in November by the Appleton Board of Appeals to Appleton Ridge Construction LLC that waived the minimum setback from a public right-of-way.

Since that legal appeal was filed, a new variance request was filed because information provided in the original application was incorrect. Both sides to the legal appeal say it would make sense to wait to see if a new variance is granted or if the original one is rescinded before having the court case move forward.

The neighbors had argued that Appleton Ridge did not prove a hardship before the board in order to receive a variance for the property at 99 Searsmont Road, or Route 131.

Jacob Boyington, the sole owner of Appleton Ridge Construction LLC, purchased the home from the town at a public auction in August 2008. The town had acquired the property in 2005 through nonpayment of property taxes. Boyington removed a mobile home on the property in the spring of 2009 and filed an application for a building permit to construct a two-bedroom house.

A building permit was issued by the town in May 2009 but the Costigans and Gagnons challenged that issuance. The permit approval noted that the permit was being challenged and stated that proceeding with construction while the appeal was pending was at the risk of the owner.

Boyington proceeded with construction of the house.

In February 2009, Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm ordered that the building permit be rescinded because the permit was granted in error because the lot was too small and did not meet the required setbacks.

After that ruling, the town informed Boyington that the building needed to receive a proper permit, be removed, or modified to come into compliance with town ordinances as interpreted by the court.

Following that letter, he sought a variance from the town’s appeals board. The board voted 4-1 for the permit at its Nov. 22 meeting. The new variance request now awaits action by the board.

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