Neighbors of Gammon Lawn Care in York Harbor say they are disheartened and frustrated when they see trucks coming in and out of the property day and night — despite the fact the town last month ordered owner Josh Gammon to cease operations there.
“When did cease and desist translate into continue and resist?” said Glenn Lane resident Joseph Jason.
The York Weekly reported in late December that Gammon had moved his equipment to other locations in town and was not working out of the York Street site. Following publication, neighbors contacted the paper to say that was not the case and that Gammon was using the property unabated.
“He has 10 to 12 trucks out of there, day and night. It’s better than last year, when he would have 25 trucks going in and out of there,” said abutter Mike Kofmann, who lives on York Street. “Last week when it snowed, you could hear those trucks going beep, beep, beep all night long. When the trucks with their lights on come out to York Street, even though I put in blackened shades, it doesn’t cover everything.”
Gammon’s attorney Matt Howell said since he informed the Weekly that Gammon had ceased operations on the property, he learned his client has resumed work there. According to Howell, Code Enforcement Officer Amber Harrison told Gammon he would be in violation for having his sign up and his address on his website, even if he wasn’t physically there.
“They were still going to fine him, so his attitude was, ‘If I’m going to get fined anyway, I am going to use my property.’ In addition, a number of his friends and fellow business owners who said ‘You can work on my site’ are worried that that town is going to go after them,” said Howell.
“I get the frustration of the neighbors, it’s not lost on me,” Howell added. “He’s not happy about this either. He gets harassed daily. People are taking pictures. Josh and I are both hopeful that there will be resolution soon.”
Harrison did not comment on whether she told Gammon about his sign and website, adding she has put nothing further in writing to him.
The town takes the position that it will wait until the cases involving Gammon and his neighbors are resolved in court, said Town Manager Steve Burns.
“He’s supposed to cease and desist. He’s taking a risk,” Burns said. “If the courts rule against him, he’s going to be liable for fines. But he has property rights, too. Let’s say we shut him down. What if the case went his way? Then would the town be liable for all the business he lost during that time? The way Maine’s land use law is set up, it’s a system that is slow, inefficient and fair.”
Neighbors have a different take. They said they hold the town as responsible as Gammon for the continuation of a situation now more than two years old. They point to a petition signed by more than 40 area residents asking selectmen to initiate court proceedings against Gammon; and numerous letters they sent to the Planning Board last fall — the most board members remember receiving for one particular case, chairwoman Amy Phalon said at the time.
“Why does this battle continue? Why do people who get in touch with Town Hall get nowhere? Why are the voices of so many people being ignored for the one?” asked Roaring Rock Road neighbor James Grieb.
Grieb was among several neighbors who said when former owner Pete Marcuri received permission from the town to run an excavation business in the 1980s, “it was a different point in time and it was a different business. The neighborhood is different today,” he said.
“When we started coming here in the 1980s, it was not a year-round town, but over the years the neighborhood has become filled with permanent residents. I don’t think the people who run the town have caught up with the changing demographics,” said Lillian Jason of Glenn Lane. She added that based on what she’s seen, the town’s ordinances “are not really respected by all members of all town boards. Everyone needs to be held to the same standard.”
Abutter Dennis O’Connor of Glenn Lane said it’s concerning when he sees trucks going in and out of the maintenance building in the middle of the night when that work is not supposed to be taking place. O’Connor said he appreciates Gammon’s drive, but added the operation has morphed into a much more intensive use than when Marcuri owned it.
“He has a lot of good ideas, but he’s outgrown his space,” O’Connor said. “At times, he’s operating an industrial operation. Other companies are coming in and dumping stumps and rocks in the summer, and dumping snow and getting salt in the winter. He’s found a business opportunity that Marcuri never capitalized on. And the town doesn’t have ordinances on how to manage an industrial operation in a residential area.”
They say they are now concerned that the town awarded a snow plow contract to Gammon. How can the town have a notice of violation yet pay Gammon to plow town roads and parking lots, said abutter Dan Raposa. “It makes no sense.”
“It’s like the fix is in,” Kofmann added.
“There have been so many missteps that have occurred,” said Joseph Jason. “We need town leaders to step up and clear this up.”
“It’s past time to sit down and work this out,” O’Connor added.
The next round of action on the Gammon case will take place on Jan. 24. The Board of Appeals will hear Gammon’s appeal of an October Planning Board ruling against his plans to increase his landholdings in order to be able to operate his business. In addition, there are at least four court actions pending in this case.
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