NEWPORT — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard a China resident’s appeal Tuesday of a district court’s decision that he has an unauthorized junkyard at his property.

In July 2012, Augusta District Court concluded that Al Althenn, 68, of China, was violating the state’s law on junkyard and automobile graveyards at his property on 85 Kidder Road.

The statute says three or more unregistered and uninspected vehicles aren’t permitted outside a property.

The court made no ruling Tuesday, but it expects to issue a written decision later.

At Nokomis Regional High School on Tuesday morning, where the court held a series of case hearings, Althenn’s lawyer, Aaron Rowden, argued that his client was a hobbyist, and that excluded him from the junkyard statute because he plans to restoring the vehicles.

“The issue with this case comes from the exception for hobbyists,” Rowden said. “Legislation has allowed for hobbyists to store parts of vehicles on their property.”

The justices, however, took issue with the vehicles and a lack of restoration done to the most of them.
“You have four unregistered vehicles with a family of raccoons living in one of them,” Justice Warren Silver said. “Do we really need to conclude, in fact, that this isn’t a graveyard?”

Attorney Alton Stevens, representing the town of China, said a statement from Althenn during his trial that he plans to restore the vehicles isn’t sufficient.

“Althenn’s statement about what he plans on doing in the future isn’t enough. It’s what he is doing now,” Stevens said.

At the trial in July last year, Althenn argued that the vehicles he had were exempt from the junkyard statute because one of the vehicles, a 1984 GMC truck, was being used to haul firewood and plow his driveway. Althenn also contended that the remaining vehicles — a 1962 GMC truck, a 1978 GMC box van and a 1978 Ford van body — were exempt because they were part of antique vehicles and in the process of restoration.

In its ruling, the district court found that only the GMC box van was an antique vehicle and rejected the idea that Althenn’s other vehicles were antiques or being used. The court ordered all the vehicles be removed from Althenn’s property except the GMC box van before Althenn filed an appeal.

Althenn, who has run for the China Board of Selectmen and served on a town land committee, also has been a vocal advocate on town environmental issues. He has petitioned unsuccessfully several times to have the water level of China Lake lowered.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239
[email protected]