The Readfield Select Board is pursuing legal action in an ongoing dispute over Matthew Curtis’s auto repair business on Terrace Road, a property that town officials call an illegal junkyard even as the owner has tried serve trespass orders on them.

Select Board members voted to pursue legal action Monday night after an executive session about what the town calls the operation of a junkyard, an illegal sign and conformance with a home occupation permit.

The town unsuccessfully attempted in March to get an administrative inspection warrant from a judge.

On Wednesday, Curtis said he continues to be frustrated by the town’s actions.

“I’ve beat them in court and they don’t like it,” he said in a phone interview.

He also sought to get a protection from harassment order against both Town Manager Eric Dyer and Code Enforcement Officer Gary Quintal, which was granted but almost immediately rescinded when the judge received information that the two men were town officials.

Trespass orders also had been served on Dyer and Quintal; however, they were dismissed under an agreement between another attorney for the town, Stephen Langsdorf, and District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, which was signed in early December 2017. Under the agreement, Maloney withdrew the criminal trespass orders and the town of Readfield agreed that “no one from the town will return to the property for the purpose of enforcing any local ordinances unless it has obtained an administrative search warrant.”

Kristin Collins, the town attorney who attended the executive session this week, said Wednesday that selectmen authorized her to file action in Augusta District Court charging Curtis with a violating state and town ordinances, civil offenses. She said the goal is “to hopefully get the property cleaned up and the violations resolved.”

Collins also said the dispute could be resolved informally at any time before the filing.

“There are code violations there,” Dyer said. “They’ve existed for some time. We just want to have them resolved. The initial authorization had a fairly limited scope to pursue the administrative (inspection) warrant. In order to really proceed in good faith with the board and the community, we all wanted to be sure everyone was on the same page.”

Curtis operates Readfield Truck & Auto Repair in a subdivision off North Road.

In March, Quintal had asked a judge to approve an administrative inspection warrant for the premises at 37-38 Terrace Road, which is Curtis’s home and workplace.

In the application, Quintal wrote that the inspection would determine whether Curtis was complying with a state law “which prohibits unauthorized junkyards, automobile graveyards and automobile recycling businesses and to determine compliance with the Town of Readfield Land Use Ordinance.”

Quintal wrote that there was probable cause to believe the site contains three or more unregistered or uninspected motor vehicles — thereby meeting the state’s definition of “automobile graveyard — and that it was being operated as an automobile recycling business and “contains discarded or worn out materials.”

It says that Curtis is violating conditions of his “High-Impact Home Occupation” business permit, which was approved Sept. 17, 2008, by the town’s Planning Board.

Quintal says he viewed the premises from a subdivision right of way in October and November 2017 and saw commercial trailers, multiple vehicles, metal parts and other debris, plus other vehicles behind structures.

Curtis refused to allow a closer look by Quintal and Dyer, application says. After a hearing at the Capital Judicial Center in March 2018, a judge refused to grant the administrative search warrant.

Curtis has lived on the Terrace Road property since 2003, initially operating a mobile repair business before getting his permit for a high-impact home occupation business for an on-site auto repair business and state inspection station.

He said the Planning Board granted a permit after doing a site review.

“I advertise an auto repair business,” he said. “I’m a state inspection station. I don’t sell used parts; I don’t sell used cars. I fix broken cars. I’ve actually repaired vehicles and equipment for the town since I’ve been in business.”

Curtis said the dispute with the town also has carried over into the subdivision itself because the town wants his business sign removed. He forwarded a copy of a letter to the North Road Terrace subdivision association that indicated the association had to vote to remove the sign or be subject to fines.

At one point in March 2017, Curtis took out nomination papers to run for a selectman’s seat; however, he said he didn’t return the petition because there would be too many conflicts.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

filed under: