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Residents who live near Gammon Lawn Care in York Harbor told selectmen Monday night they remain frustrated by what they see as a lack of action by the town, and at least one again made a plea for the selectmen to consider court action against owner Josh Gammon.
They said they will be mounting a petition in the coming weeks to present to selectmen, in an attempt to put more power behind their plea.
The comments came days after a Board of Appeals meeting was to have been held to discuss an appeal filed by Gammon’s attorney Matt Howell. That Aug. 23 meeting was postponed until Sept. 13.
Howell is asking the BOA to overturn Code Enforcement Officer Amber Harrison’s notice of violation and cease work order of July 12 against Gammon. Harrison said Gammon was in violation of a Planning Board decision that he did not have enough property to operate a nonconforming use in a shoreland zone.
Two days later, Howell submitted all the necessary paperwork requested by the town to prove the purchase of land from Ron and Susan Peris as well as an agreement by abutter Diane Marcuri to the arrangement. The purchase gives Gammon enough land to operate his business. Howell argues that the notice of violation should have been lifted at that time, but it remains in effect.
Neighbors who came before selectmen Monday said they were concerned about the reasons why the BOA meeting was postponed. Internal emails indicate it was because of a lack of a quorum coupled with the fact that Harrison was dealing with an illness in the family.
“We had about 15 people ready to go to that BOA meeting,” Dennis O’Connor, who lives in the neighborhood of Gammon Lawn Care, said. “We’re scratching our heads and wondering how open and transparent this process really is. I’m asking you to pay attention to make sure the process gets followed.”
Board of Selectmen Chairman Todd Frederick said unlike other boards, the BOA needs five members for a quorum, and chair Robert Lascelles found out late Wednesday afternoon that a member could not make it.
“This is very important,” Michael Archambault of Glenn Lane said. “I’m glad this is on your radar. I suspect some ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ things are going on, and it needs to be looked at very carefully.”
Dan Raposa, who has been leading the charge on this issue, once again asked the board to consider court action under Maine Rule 80K, which is followed in prosecuting land use violations. The district court-level legal procedure is intended to settle disputes that code enforcement officials have been unable to resolve through administrative means.
Raposa had made the 80K request at an earlier selectmen’s meeting and brought it up again Monday. He said he intends to present a petition signed by about 100 neighborhood residents insisting the selectmen consider this action. Earlier in the evening, Town Manager Steve Burns told selectmen that town attorney Mary Costigan told him that an 80K proceeding “is not the appropriate course” in this matter.
“That’s done to try to force somebody to do something, to force affirmative action,” Burns said. “In this case, the party (Gammon) is already trying to comply. The response I got is that we would not get far in court.”
He then cautioned the board that a petition “can’t force you to take action.”
But Raposa remained adamant this avenue should be pursued.
“We want our selectmen to debate the issues, to question the opinion of the town attorney, to question the actions of the various boards. I don’t know what lessons we’re teaching when a business can blatantly defy the rule of local government. My hope is that the five of you will insist transparency will come to light,” he said.
Gammon’s attorney, Matt Howell, said Tuesday that he doesn’t have any comment on the 80K issue. “Certainly I am not going to spend any time or energy defending Josh against it at this point. Right now, I’m getting things wrapped up administratively” to come back before the Planning Board. Gammon will be asking the board to lift its ruling, given the fact that he now has enough land with the Peris purchase.