MILBRIDGE, Maine — A lawsuit involving the town of Milbridge and Mano en Mano, a local nonprofit, was settled in U.S. District Court last week, a move expected by all parties.
Magistrate Judge Margaret J. Kravchuk ordered that all details be completed within 30 days, at which time the suit filed by Mano en Mano will be dismissed.
The lawsuit, initiated last summer, was based on alleged violations of the federal Fair Housing Act. Mano en Mano, a nonprofit advocacy group, was using $1.6 million in federal grant funds to construct a housing unit for permanent agricultural workers.
When Milbridge voters in June 2009 approved a moratorium on such facilities, Mano en Mano sued the town.
Town officials maintained that the moratorium provided the town’s planning board time to come up with appropriate zoning ordinances to deal with such large projects and enact appropriate zoning ordinances.
Mano en Mano charged discrimination since the $1.6 million project was to serve local agricultural workers.
The moratorium ended with the passage of a new land use ordinance in November that cleared the way for the housing.
Frederick F. Costlow, the attorney representing Milbridge, said in a prepared statement last week that “both [parties] agree it is better to move forward than to seek a judicial decision.”
The details of the settlement have not yet been filed with the court.
In response to some opinions that the issue in the lawsuit was racism, Costlow wrote: “Milbridge welcomes all residents into the life of its community. The Town looks forward to working with Mano en Mano and others to maintain fairness in its dealings with residents of all national origins.”
Although he represented Milbridge in this action, Costlow also spoke for Mano en Mano by adding, “For its part, Mano en Mano welcomes the opportunity to work with Milbridge to help provide safe, secure housing for all persons in need.”
Construction of the housing units on Wyman Road is expected to begin this spring.