January 23, 2019
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Selectmen frustrated with town planners over lawn care business controversy

Deborah McDermott | The York Weekly
Deborah McDermott | The York Weekly
Residential neighbors of Gammon Landscaping, located on York Street in York Harbor, say the business is way too intensive for the area and differs from an excavating business that had operated on the site.

For the second time in as many months, the Board of Selectmen took umbrage with the Planning Board over the Gammon Lawn Care property on York Street.

This time, selectmen voted unanimously to direct the Planning Board to meet before its next regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 30. They want the board to formalize its late October vote denying Gammon a lot division that would allow him to remain operating on his property.

Just last month, several board members including Chairman Todd Frederick expressed unhappiness with the board for adjourning while a Gammon hearing was in progress, because it was past the board’s set ending time of 10:30 p.m.

Earlier this month, the Gammon case came up during Town Manager Steve Burns’ report to the board. Burns told selectmen the Planning Board voted to deny Gammon’s land transactions that would have given him enough property to remain on site. However, that decision doesn’t become binding until after the board signs its Findings of Facts, which it was supposed to do Nov. 9. That meeting was canceled, though, for lack of a quorum.

“There’s nothing in our charter that says the Planning Board has to meet on certain dates,” said Selectman Mike Estes. “We just keep dragging. You have a poor business guy who has no idea what he’s doing, and neighbors who have been fighting this a long time. You would think we could get the Findings of Fact quicker than Nov. 30. I don’t know what’s happening. It just seems like we don’t want to solve this.”

Selectmen concurred, voting to contact Planning Board Chairwoman Amy Phalon and express their “strong desire” to see the board meet “at least by next week. This week would be better,” Frederick said.

Once written findings are filed, a 30-day appeal period begins.

During the same discussion, Selectman Liz Blanchard said she would like to see the board at its next meeting move forward with a so called “80K” action against Gammon. This district court-level procedure is filed for land use violations. Abutters submitted a petition last month asking the board to initiate this action, on grounds that despite town decisions against him, Gammon is still operating on the property.

Blanchard’s plea for an 80K was bolstered by the comments of abutter Dan Raposa, who said “it’s tormenting, maddening how long this has lived. And now we have to go through another winter? I plead with the five of you at your Nov. 27 meeting to hold an 80K vote.”

But Estes said it would be better to “wait until the appeals go through. If all this plays out and the applicant (Gammon) decides not to move, then we are within our rights (to file court action). But there are certain rights people have.”

Selectman Robert Palmer agreed. “We don’t have standing for an 80K until after the litigation process has run out.” And Burns said “while the appeals are running, no judge is going to pick it up.”

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