FAIRFIELD — The owner of a U.S. Route 201 antiques store who has clashed with the town for years about an illegal junkyard on his property may yet again face court proceedings for illegal dumping.

Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said Robert Dale, a Fairfield resident, was issued a notice of violation on April 19 after several site visits and received an extension until June 19 to clean up the property. She said he appeared “to be creating new violations at his place of business.”

Dale settled with the town out of court last year over code violations that had accumulated over years.

On Wednesday, Flewelling said Dale was granted another two-week extension after the code enforcement officer and fire chief again inspected the property. She said the extension was granted because Dale has shown good efforts to clean up his property, even if it doesn’t appear that way from the exterior. The property on U.S. Route 201 is piled high with a variety of items, so high that even the roof is fair game.

Contacted by phone Wednesday, Dale declined to comment.

Flewelling said Dale has invited the town to go see the business, 201 Antiques, every Wednesday.

Flewelling said the town had asked Dale to make small, incremental improvements to his property. He wasn’t sent a certified notice of violation this winter because snow and ice could have impeded improvements, but she said Dale needs to clean up inside the structure and keep the walking paths clear all the way to the building’s rear exits to ensure safety.

The code enforcement officer and the fire chief provide Dale with a list of tasks to accomplish each week. Depending on how many specific tasks he completes, they determine whether his effort is good. Flewelling said that as long as he makes “significant progress” completing tasks with either few remaining or all completed, the town considers that to be good effort.

“They said he’s made great progress,” Flewelling said.

Flewelling said if a person outright refuses to comply with a list of tasks, that’s usually when the town will go to court; but the legal process is used as a last resort.

Last year, Dale paid Fairfield nearly $36,000 to cover fines and fees associated with violations at his antiques store. Town officials previously took Dale to court because of furniture, tools, glass, metal and other items that blocked exits and were fire hazards.

In 2014, a judge declared Dale’s property an illegal junkyard, and other court actions put buildings he owns in Hallowell in jeopardy of being sold to pay his fines in Fairfield.

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

Dale cleaned up the property and made monthly payments to the town. As a result, District Court Judge Andrew Benson allowed deadlines for compliance to be pushed back to give Dale time to clean up the property.

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 for civil penalties and legal fees. Dale’s Fairfield property is heavily mortgaged, and he would not have been able to sell it. Dale owes no mortgage on his Hallowell property.

The Hallowell buildings, three-story brick structures downtown on the banks of the Kennebec River, are valued at about $200,000 apiece.

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 city of Hallowell about $16,000 to cover property tax liens, money that would have come from the real estate sale.

The Fairfield Town Council was ready to give Flewelling permission to buy the Hallowell property last year, but Dale ultimately paid his Fairfield bills.

Dale also has had his share of problems in Hallowell. The city sued Dale in 2015 to get him to clean up junk around and atop his buildings and sought fines for leaving it there. The civil suit then said his antique shop at 152 and 154 Water St., Brass & Friends, was an unlicensed junkyard, which violates a city solid waste ordinance, much like what had happened in Fairfield.

Hallowell also took Dale to court in 2009 after it said he violated an agreement by not tearing down crumbling buildings on Second Street. He eventually did clear the property, but the legal action cost Hallowell $75,000 in legal fees.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis


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