A friendly agreement that went bad has two neighboring antique dealers on U.S. Route 201 in Fairfield trading barbs and accusations over a state court order that one of the businesses clean its debris covered property.

Robert Dale, owner of Maine 201 Antiques, has been ordered by the 12th District Court to clean up furniture, tools, vehicles and other junk from the sprawling front yard of his business by June 15.

Dale says the court order was the result of a campaign of harassment by the Fairfield Antique Mall, which has operated on the property next door for the past 17 years.

The two companies used to work together, but when their business arrangement soured a couple of years ago, the business dispute quickly became personal, Dale said.

“When we severed ties they tried to close me down,” Dale said.

In early March, Dale and the town of Fairfield, reached an agreement to settle a court case brought by the town. That agreement called for Dale to reimburse the town about $10,000 in legal fees and clean up his yard.

Dale said Monday that he has been working to comply with the order and that he plans to meet the June 15 deadline.

He said he has sold some of the items and put others into storage to meet the order.

“I’ve moved at least four-fifths of it,” he said. “I’ve been working on it the last two weeks. It’s cost me a lot of money.”

Dale faces fines of $150 per day if he doesn’t comply and would have to pay the cost of having the property cleaned up by the town.

He claims he was unfairly targeted by the town after his business relationship with his neighbors, Wayne Gamage and Ralph McLaughlin, went sour.

“This town has all kinds of places with all kinds of stuff in their yard,” he said. “But the town functions on complaints.”

Fairfield Town Manager Josh Reny said that Dale’s property is being targeted because it is the most egregious offender in town.

It isn’t the first time that a local community has forced Dale to clean up property he owned. The Hallowell City Council forced Dale to clean up debris in a yard after a four-year legal battle that ended in 2010.

Dale said the March court order for the Fairfield property was motivated by his neighbors’ financial interests.

“My neighbor is trying to drive me out of business,” he said.

FEUDING NEIGHBORS

Gamage denies that he and his partner, McLaughlin, are trying to drive Dale out of business.

“He can stay in business,” he said. “But he has to make it nice. You know, safe.”

When Dale first established his operation some three years ago, the two businesses formed a cooperative arrangement. Gamage and his staff would conduct transactions with customers for all of Dale’s items in exchange for a commission.

Dale and Gamage disagree on what led to the dissolution of the partnership, but they agree that the past two years have turned into a battle.

Today, a makeshift fence propped up by planks of wood separates the two properties.

Over the winter, Dale said, Gamage plowed snow into a right of way preventing customers from reaching Dale’s property. When the snow melted, Dale said, Gamage moved a large, white truck into the right-of-way to block access. A white truck was parked in the area Monday.

McLaughlin doesn’t deny that he and Gamage parked the truck to block entrance to Maine 201 Antiques.

But McLaughlin said it is retaliation for Dale keeping his property covered with junk, preventing the Fairfield Antique Mall owners from traveling over a right-of-way to reach a well on the opposite side of Dale’s property. Gamage says he has a property right to use the well.

“This used to be nice,” Gamage said. “Now look at it.”

McLaughlin said Dale interrupted three sales at the Fairfield Antique Mall.

“Every one this year, he has burned his garbage and filled our parking lot with smoke,” McLaughlin said. “That is intentional. I guarantee it. He lights his fire and stinks them all out.”

For his part, Dale said that Gamage has told deliverymen not to unload items for sale and told would-be customers that the Maine 201 Antiques is out of business.

“I became competition,” Dale said.

But Gamage and McLaughlin say they became concerned when the piles of junk kept growing and said the piles have continued to grow despite Dale’s assertions that he has cleaned much of it up. A substantial number of items, such as bicycles and rocking chairs, can now be seen on the roof.

Under the court-ordered agreement with the town, Dale has also agreed to fix seven fire code violations and comply with the town’s land-use ordinance, which requires that materials stored outdoors be raised off the ground and enclosed in containers.

Dale said that the long winter slowed down his efforts to clean the yard.

“I think I’ll be able to make it,” he said.

Gamage said he doesn’t think Dale will meet the court deadline.

“Of course not. Look at it,” he said. “He couldn’t do it with a crew of 10 men here for a week.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287

[email protected]

Twitter: @hh_matt


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