December 13, 2017
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Local board rejects business’ expansion plans as dispute simmers

By Deborah McDermott, The York Weekly
Deborah McDermott | The York Weekly | BDN
Deborah McDermott | The York Weekly | BDN
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.

The York Planning Board has officially rejected Josh Gammon’s plans to expand his property holdings in order to comply with town zoning. Members cited a number of reasons why Gammon Lawn Care’s proposal does not jibe with town ordinance and state law.

Meanwhile, selectmen recently approved Gammon’s bid to plow snow this winter in York Village and York Harbor, despite a forceful request by selectman Liz Blanchard that it be rejected. She said in her opinion, selectmen would be “aiding and abetting” an illegal business.

And a Superior Court case over a 2016 Board of Appeals decision remains pending, although a ruling is considered imminent.

The Planning Board last Thursday approved the “findings of facts” to back up in writing its Oct. 26 decision to reject Gammon’s plan to secure land abutting his York Street business in order to meet town zoning. He proposed to buy land from Susan and Ronald Peris and swap land with Diane Marcuri in order to obtain the 60,000-square-foot lot required of a nonconforming operation in a shoreland overlay district.

In its findings of facts, the Planning Board laid out a number of issues with Gammon’s proposal. For one, state law and York ordinance “encourage a gradual natural fading out of…nonconforming situations” whenever possible. Gammon’s proposal “does not meet the spirit and intent” of those provisions.

The board also found that the lot that would be created by the Peris and Marcuri additions doesn’t meet street frontage requirements and creates a “flag lot” — a long, skinny lot (the pole) that widens out (the flag). Town zoning prohibits such lots as a means of creating enough land in order to meet other zoning requirements.

Gammon’s attorney, Matthew Howell, strongly disagrees with this finding, saying that he brought in surveyor Bill Anderson, who explained to the board that the parcel did not meet the definition of a flag lot.

Finally, the board found that the lot Gammon would create “would necessarily result in an impermissible change in the lot boundaries of a lot being put to a nonconforming use” — a violation of another zoning ordinance.

Howell intends to appeal this ruling to the Board of Appeals.

In a related matter, Code Enforcement Officer Amber Harrison said she is awaiting word from town attorney Mary Costigan before reinstating a Notice of Violation against Gammon that she lifted when the Planning Board took jurisdiction of the case in October.

She said this week that the language of the NOV “needs to be clear, and I will be sending it out as soon as I hear back from the town attorney.” Gammon and Howell will be the first to receive the notice, she said; once she has receive proof of that they have it, it will be available to the public.

Finally, Gammon’s business came up in an unrelated context at the Board of Selectmen’s last meeting. He was the low bidder for a town snow plowing contract for the town hall, library, village and York Harbor. Typically a routine approval (two other snow plow bids were approved the same night without comment), the Gammon bid drew opposition from Blanchard.

“I take issue with this bid,” she said. “We are aiding and abetting an entity that is doing business illegally in town, according to the Planning Board,” she said. “I just think that it’s not in our best interest to be involved with the Gammon Lawn Care business at this time.”

But other selectmen disagreed.

“This board has never governed in a way to put someone out of business,” said Mike Estes. He said there are appeals and counter appeals still pending in this case. “This is where we are. Maybe the process isn’t any good. But to punish Josh Gammon and put him out of business I don’t think is the appropriate thing to do.”

“I initially had some concerns about awarding this contract,” said Dawn Sevigny-Watson. “But as I thought more about it, no matter what the outcome is, Mr. Gammon still has a right to move his business and would still have a viable business.”

“We should award this contract to the lowest bidder just like we would anyone else,” said Robert Palmer.

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