FALMOUTH, Maine — Town officials say there are no immediate plans for legal action against Yarmouth resident Steve Woods in the continuing disagreement over his company’s compliance with the town sign ordinance.
But they also remain determined to have TideSmart Global comply with the law.
Woods, meanwhile, has delivered Freedom of Access Act requests to the town to prepare for what he called “any and all options.”
“As this matter progresses along, it’s clear that the town of Falmouth intends for this to be a legal issue as opposed to an administrative issue,” Woods said Monday.
Town Manager Nathan Poore said that he is unaware of any potential legal action against Woods. He said the Town Council is still willing to work with Woods on bringing the Route 1 sign into compliance.
“There are two orders of business to address,” Poore said. “The sign needs to be in compliance and we need to respond to his Freedom of Access request.”
Woods issued the first of two Freedom of Access requests on Aug. 28, the day after councilors spent 47 minutes discussing TideSmart Global’s sign.
The concern is that the sign is out of compliance with the town’s commercial signage ordinance because the letters on the word “Global” are one inch smaller than the required five inches. Council Chairwoman Faith Varney claims the sign is 8 feet tall, 2 feet taller than the height limit. Woods maintains that the sign is only 6 feet tall.
In the Aug. 28 request, Woods asked the town for “any and all documents … pertaining to the TideSmart Global signage issue.”
His second request, on Sept. 5, renewed the first demands and also included requests for information on the chronology of events given to councilors, executive sessions and the employment contracts and employment information for Poore, Community Development Director Amanda Sterns and Code Enforcement Officer Justin Brown.
“On one hand they’re claiming that I put up the wall and the sign before the ordinance was final and on the other hand they’re claiming that I’m in violation of the ordinance,” Woods said. “Both things can’t legally be true.”
He said that if his sign was up before the ordinance was passed, then it is not out of compliance because it should be grandfathered.
Woods said that he requested the employment information about Poore, Sterns and Brown because he feels there is a “breakdown relative to management authority and duty” at Town Hall and he wants to look into where that breakdown is occurring.
He said he had not received a response in the two weeks since his first request was sent to the town.
Poore disagreed. He said he responded the same day the Aug. 28 request was made, informing Woods that he would put together a cost and time estimate. He said he told Woods his request would cost more than $30 and it would take several days to determine the total cost and time required for completion.
Poore said Woods’ second request, made last Wednesday, is still being reviewed.
“We’ve got a lot of other things to do and a lot of other Freedom of Access requests to fill,” he said. “I still need to work up an estimate in the event that it’s over $100. We’ve broken down his request to try to figure out what are requests for documents and what are questions, to figure out what documents we’re supposed to provide him.”
Woods, the Yarmouth Town Council chairman and independent candidate for U.S. Senate, who last week said he has canceled plans to build a $3 million office building in Falmouth because of his disagreement with the council, this week said he is ready for the problem to be resolved.
“Every time there is another volley it feels like I am dragged into a continuing debate,” he said. “My focus is on my business and being a community leader, not to have any conflict with the town of Falmouth. Over two weeks the town has had two opportunities to resolve this with a simple apology, and instead of trying to move forward constructively, they are continuing to misstate the facts. At every point it feels like they’re doubling down on various positions that seem indefensible.”
Poore said that the town is willing to work with Woods, but that the council’s preference is that Woods bring the sign into compliance, not to enter into a consent agreement with him.
“We don’t have a schedule right now for any type of deadline, but eventually that may need to happen,” Poore said. “We haven’t had that conversation yet because there has been so much else that Mr. Woods has wanted to talk about with the council and the individual councilors.”