Days after an illegal junkyard owner missed a court-ordered deadline to clean up mounds of junk from his property, the town of Fairfield is bracing for a legal battle.

Sunday’s deadline for property owner Robert Dale to clean up the property has passed and the town has taken steps to have it cleared by a private contractor. After Dale’s attorney sent a letter to the town, town officials have become tight-lipped about the possibility the issue will end up back in court.

“Because there is a possibility this issue could result in further litigation I do not have any more information to provide at this time,” said Town Manager Josh Reny Thursday.

Dale said his lawyer is out of town this week but that the lawyer did submit a letter to the town that has not been answered.

In March, Dale agreed to settle a court case brought by the town seeking to clean up the property known Maine 201 Antiques on U.S. Route 201.

The agreement called for the property to be cleared of debris by June 15.

While labeled a public safety hazard by town officials, Dale contends it is to be safe and said he expects to finish cleaning the site on his own within days.

“I’m behind because of the late winter,” he said. “I thought I’d be able to move stuff all April but everything was frozen until the end of April.”

The yard surrounding the antique store has a large amount of materials, including old furniture, piles of windows and tools. In addition, the agreement specified that Dale must fix seven fire code violations and come into compliance with the town’s land-use ordinance.

The Town Council will meet with the town attorney during a closed-door session on June 25 to discuss possible options.

Earlier this week, Reny said the town was considering two independent courses of action. The first is whether to exercise its option under the agreement to clean up the property, at Dale’s expense. On Wednesday, Reny visited the property with a contractor to get a rough estimate on cleanup costs.

Dale said that he was aware of the town’s actions, but said hiring a company to come clean his property would likely take some time.

“I’m still in the process of cleaning it,” he said. “I don’t know what else to do. I’ve asked for some more time and if they can’t, I’ll just keep cleaning it.”

The town is also considering whether to post the property as a public safety hazard, which could involve erecting signs to warn the public not to enter the property and possibly erecting a barrier to block access.

Under the agreement, by missing the June 15 deadline Dale incurred a $5,000 penalty and fines of $150 per day until the property is in compliance.

Dale and the town have a different idea of what will constitute a compliant property. Much of the material that Dale considers to be in compliance has been put into a series of temporary storage tents; he says he was told by town officials that the storage units would be acceptable, but Reny said it would be illegal to allow the material to stay in the tents.

Dale has also put some materials on the roof of the building, which Reny said is likely a violation of state building codes.

While the front yard of the property is noticeably tidier, heaped piles of material on the sides of the building, out of sight of passing motorists, are also an issue.

Dale said cleaning that up is not as much of a priority to him because it is not visited by customers.

“A lot of the stuff out back is my personal stuff and nobody goes out there anyway,” he said.

Earlier this week, Reny said that the town’s ordinances require that all materials be stored off of the ground in enclosed containers.

Neighbors have expressed concern that a fire could break out on Dale’s property and threaten their buildings. The town has also said Dale’s building is so full of items that it could collapse from the weight.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287

[email protected]

Twitter: @hh_matt

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