December 11, 2017
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Maine town: Lawn business doesn’t have enough lawn to be business

By Deborah McDermott, York Weekly
Updated:

YORK, Maine — The town issued a notice of violation to Josh Gammon, owner of Gammon Lawn Care, and ordered him to cease operation of his Route 1A business in York Harbor.

The notice was sent Wednesday by certified mail to Gammon and his attorney Matt Howell of Clark and Howell in York. As of Thursday at noon, neither had received it, but Howell said he knew it was coming. The order stipulates if Gammon doesn’t abide by terms of the order, the town could seek court action to include fines and reimbursement of costs. The fine is $100 to $2,500 per day, beginning on the day he receives the notice.

At issue is violation of a Planning Board decision issued last Dec. 8, stating Gammon does not have enough property to meet the town’s minimum lot size requirements for nonresidential use in a shoreland zone. He needs to have 60,000 square feet and his lot is 50,693 square feet.

Abutter Dan Raposa, who has led efforts by his neighbors to stop the operation, argues a notice of violation should have been issued by the Code Enforcement Office shortly after that date, and the office and in particular CEO Amber Harrison has failed in her responsibilities. Howell contends Harrison and town attorney Mary Costigan have been “constantly moving the goalposts” in terms of what they want from Gammon and Gammon has tried to comply.

Harrison sent a notice of violation to Gammon in March, telling him to get additional land or cease operations, giving him until May 9 to do that. The deadline was delayed to June 16 as Gammon said he was working on a solution. On June 19, Howell submitted a purchase and sale agreement between Gammon and Ronald and Susan Peris for 30,000 square feet of land. That land does not directly abut Gammon’s property, but abuts property owned by Diane Marcuri. Her late husband Peter sold Gammon the original parcel where he has located his lawn care business.

In that June 19 filing, Howell included a “property agreement” between Gammon and Marcuri. Howell said under terms of the agreement, Marcuri and Gammon would swap land to allow for the connection between the Peris parcel and Gammon’s. Costigan, in a late June letter to Howell, said the agreement was insufficient and that Marcuri has to enter a purchase and sale with Peris and Gammon that “conveys right, title or interest.”

Town Manager Steve Burns told selectmen June 26 a new violation notice was to be issued by July 4, but at the last selectmen’s meeting July 10, he said with apparent consternation that it still had not been issued. That caused Raposa to tell selectmen in his view Harrison “has been sitting on her hands.”

Harrison said throughout the process she has been “following the town attorney’s advice, which included working with the owner to get voluntary compliance. I strictly followed the guidance of the town attorney on timing, language and correspondence” – especially given, she said, a separate Superior Court case on the same issue is pending.

Howell said Marcuri is expected to sign a formal purchase and sale agreement on Friday delineating terms of the “right, title and interest” in her property. If that’s the case, he said, “this could be a 24-hour notice of violation.”

A pending court case involves a Board of Appeals decision in July 2016, overturning Harrison’s ruling that Gammon’s business is substantially the same as Peter Marcuri’s excavation business and therefore grandfathered.

 


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