HALLOWELL — The city, in another dispute with a business owner who has left debris atop and around his downtown property, will likely seek a court order forcing a cleanup this year.

Hallowell Code Enforcement Officer Maureen AuCoin in August sent a letter to Robert Dale, the owner of Brass & Friends Antiques at 152 and 154 Water St., saying scrap lumber, metal, old furniture, bricks and appliances that violate a city solid waste ordinance were left on the building’s roof and exterior decks and behind the building along Front Street.

The area hasn’t been cleaned up yet, but in a brief phone conversation on Monday before hanging up on a reporter, Dale said he would clear it “as soon as the snow melts.”

Dale has a history of run-ins in Hallowell and Fairfield over items left outside his property.

In December, Fairfield got a court judgment forcing him to pay nearly $30,000 in penalties, court and attorney fees after the town ordered him in March to clean up debris and fix code violations at Maine 201 Antiques, the property on U.S. Route 201 next to the Fairfield Antiques Mall.

Hallowell has cited Dale for many issues dating to the 1990s and took him to court in 2009 after the city said he violated an agreement to tear down buildings that were deteriorating on a Second Street property. Then, the city said it spent $75,000 on legal fees to deal with the issue, but Dale eventually cleared and sold that property.

In particular, Dale’s downtown property has long been a bone of contention among business owners. Row House, a local historic preservation group, has recently lobbied city councilors to enact an ordinance directly targeting him. Ruth LaChance, who runs Boynton’s Market across the street, said she has long worried that debris on the roof could blow off and injure somebody on the sidewalk.

“I’m worried about the safety of the building and the condition that it’s in,” she said.

This time, City Manager Michael Starn said Hallowell decided to take action after “a variety of complaints” made over the years about it. He called it “a very clear violation.”

AuCoin said her August letter was sent via certified mail to Dale, but it was never picked up. She said she served him by hand in September, sending him a second notice in November that gave him until December to clear the mess. That hasn’t happened, so the city is now likely to go to court, which would require council approval, and seek a fine against Dale. AuCoin and Starn said Dale will likely be on the agenda at a March meeting.

“We have not heard anything that he’s going to address the issue,” Starn said.

Hallowell has placed liens against properties held by Dale every year since 2006. The latest was issued in June 2014, giving him until December 2015 to pay nearly $6,700 in back taxes. Meanwhile, the ordinance that Row House President Irv Paradis said was aimed at Dale sits before a council subcommittee.

The proposal would require commercial buildings to be fully enclosed to protect the interior from the elements, and violators could be fined. Paradis said the ordinance “would definitely hit Robert Dale,” whose building has had broken windows and other issues. Paradis said the city needs higher standards to address structural issues in important buildings like Dale’s.

“Otherwise, sooner or later it’s going to fall down,” he said, “and it’ll get to the point where it’ll be condemned.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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