FAIRFIELD — The owner of a U.S. Route 201 antiques store who was cited for years of code violations and whose property was deemed an illegal junkyard by a court has settled with the town, ending a four-year long battle that nearly landed him in jail.

Robert Dale, who also owns property in Hallowell, where he faces court action over similar violations, this month paid the town of Fairfield nearly $36,000 to cover fines and fees associated with violations at Maine 201 Antiques. Town officials took him to court for years of clutter of furniture, tools, glass, metal and assorted items that they said blocked exits and posed a fire hazard.

The condition of the property forced a judge in 2014 to determine the property was an illegal junkyard, and more recent court action put buildings he owns on Water Street in Hallowell in danger of being sold to pay his Fairfield fines.

Items for sale at the Route 201 store — including old furniture, piles of windows, doors and metal — accumulated on the ground and in trailers since the town first noted what it considered the hazards in September 2012.

Pressure from the courts over recent years forced Dale to slowly clean the property up and to comply with state and local health and safety standards, said attorney Bill Lee, who represents the town. Dale was threatened with jail time if he didn’t meet the town’s standards for health and safety.

Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said Dale, a resident of Fairfield, had been making monthly payments to the town and had shown good faith in cleaning up the property, and District Court Judge Andrew Benson allowed deadlines for compliance to be pushed back to give Dale time to clean up the property.

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Still, it was fast-tracked by the court in February, and Dale was ordered to pay the base amount he owed to the town — about $29,700 — within 90 days, or Fairfield had the right to sell property he owns at 152 and 154 Water St. in Hallowell by auction. Of the $36,000 paid by Dale, $16,000 was civil penalties and legal fees.

Flewelling said the Hallowell property became part of the court order because the Route 201 property is heavily mortgaged and Fairfield would not have been able to sell it, but Dale owes no mortgage on the Hallowell property.

“We petitioned the court to have first rights on other properties that he had in Hallowell, instead of the Fairfield property, and it was granted,” she said. The Hallowell buildings, brick three-story buildings downtown on the bank of the Kennebec River, are valued at about $200,000 apiece, she said.

Had the town seized the buildings, Fairfield would have taken the money Dale owed and the rest would have been turned over to him, but he would have lost the Hallowell buildings. Fairfield also would have had to pay the town of Hallowell about $16,000 in property tax liens, money that would have come from the real estate sale.

The Fairfield Town Council was ready last month to give Flewelling permission to buy the Hallowell property, she said.

“But he paid,” Flewelling said. “At the eleventh hour, basically, the day before. Because he paid, we then filed a release against all liens and rights we had to the property.”

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Town attorney Bill Lee said, “After multiple hearings he finally came into compliance with the previous court order on cleaning up the property and once he did, then we ended up dismissing the action against him.

“From the town of Fairfield’s standpoint, that matter has been resolved,” he said. “It’s been paid in full. We have discharged the writs of execution against his real estate, so the town at the present time has no claim against any of Robert Dale’s real estate.”

Dale, who has similar problems in Hallowell with the property Fairfield would have sold to collect his fines, would not comment on the settlement Wednesday.

Augusta-based attorney Walter McKee, who represented Dale in the Fairfield case, said Friday that he hasn’t had any contact with Dale in recent months, though he is “pleased to hear that he has settled.” McKee is not representing Dale in the Hallowell case.

Hallowell, meanwhile, sued Dale last summer seeking cleanup of junk around and atop his buildings and fines for leaving it there. The civil lawsuit said Brass & Friends, Dale’s antique shop at 152 and 154 Water St., is an unlicensed junkyard and violates a city solid waste ordinance, much like what had happened in Fairfield.

Hallowell took Dale to court in 2009 after it said he violated an agreement to tear down crumbling buildings on Second Street. He eventually cleared the property, but it cost the city $75,000 in legal fees.

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Interim Hallowell Town Manager Maureen AuCoin, who is also the city’s code enforcement officer, did not return calls for comment on the Hallowell situation with Dale. AuCoin applied for the permanent manager’s position, but was not given a second interview, the Kennebec Journal reported Thursday. She informed the city that she would be leaving her post as code enforcement officer in the next several weeks, Mayor Mark Walker said.

Contacted Thursday, Walker said Dale had some of the same problems in Hallowell that he had in Fairfield.

“I must say he has taken some steps to meet our requests and demands,” Walker said. “I think in his final efforts, he has come into compliance. I know we took him to court, got a verdict, insisted on some improvement to his property, and I believe he has performed most of those improvements.

“We certainly understand the issues that have fallen on the town of Fairfield,” Walker said. “I don’t think the (Hallowell) lawsuit has been withdrawn. I think there was an order that required him to do certain things, much like in Fairfield. I think he’s met most of those. He’s working toward compliance.”

In Fairfield, Flewelling said that as long as Dale continues to comply with health and safety ordinances, Fairfield is done with him. Code Enforcement Office Nicole Martin visits the Route 201 property every month to make sure the site is in order and in compliance with land use regulations.

“Persistence is the key on the municipal side of things,” Flewelling said. “We try to work with people as best we can.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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