March 17, 2018
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Neighbors pledge to continue fighting in protracted dispute over lawn care business

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.
By Deborah McDermott, The York Weekly

Residents who live in the neighborhood of Gammon Lawn Care in York Harbor say they intend to continue to seek various means of legal redress against a business that they say continues to disrupt their lives in ways big and small.

This discussion comes as abutters Daniel and Susan Raposa filed a motion to “alter or amend the judgment” of Superior Court Justice John O’Neil, who dismissed a lawsuit involving the use of the property as a commercial business. O’Neil sided with the town that an underlying Board of Appeals decision on that issue was advisory only and therefore the court has no jurisdiction to hear an appeal.

The Raposas’ motion disagrees with that assessment, and lays out arguments why O’Neil should reconsider his decision. That motion has been challenged by the town of York, which argues the judge made no error. Gammon joined the town in the court appeal.

In O’Neil’s decision, the judge made clear discretion to take action on the issue of use lies with the Board of Selectmen — another avenue that the neighbors intend to pursue. They were at selectmen’s meeting Monday night, arguing that it is now clear the ball is in the selectmen’s court.

“The selectmen have the discretion to rule on use,” said Raposa. The neighbors are not giving up, for instance, on asking the board to file a so-called “80K” action against Gammon for land use violations. Several months ago, 47 people signed a petition to that effect.

In a separate matter, Raposa said he was considering whether to appeal a recent Board of Appeals decision overturning a Planning Board vote that the Gammon’s lot is illegal. He was expected to raise the issue with selectmen Monday night as well.

But that’s not the only fronts the neighbors are considering. At a recent meeting with the Weekly, they said they will file written complaints with the code enforcement office when their quality of life is disrupted by what they see as an industrial use in a residential neighborhood. This became especially appealing to some when they found out they could file complaints anonymously. Several said they were concerned about backlash.

Finally, Raposa suggested that they consider filing property tax abatements, on grounds that the value of their property has been diminished by Gammon’s operation.

“All of us are shareholders in this town and the town’s job is to maximize the value of those shareholders, or at least protect the value,” said neighbor Denis O’Connor. “If you look at the area around Gammon’s borders, you can get to $10 million (in assessed value of homes) pretty quickly. It’s real money. Then the whole town would have to subsidize this.”

“Maybe you get a 30 percent reduction if you’re a direct abutter, 20 percent if you’re across the street and 10 percent if you’re down the road,” said Raposa. “The traffic, the debris, the noise, the fumes, the dust, the constant motion, that glare that could be there in the middle of the night, that affects the value of our property.”

Jim Grieb, who lives in the neighborhood, said he has “a growing concern of what will happen if we want to sell our property. There’s no restraint on what is happening here. We’re letting a young man run unencumbered a business that is extraordinarily loud and growing in a residential area. That doesn’t make sense at all.

“Despite what people say when looking at the paperwork, this is not a continuation of what the use was 35 years ago. It’s not a continuation of what was going on 10 years ago. Instead of common sense, we get caught up in the legalese which can extend this forever.”

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