At 7 a.m. Monday, David Smith plans to present a petition at the Richmond Town Hall to stop contractors from clearing items from his property on Alexander Reed Road.

Claiming his First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances, Smith is asking town officials to stop taking any action to remove items from his land and to hold an open town meeting for residents to vote to have the judgment Richmond officials obtained against him vacated and dismissed with prejudice.

But Richmond’s town manager said earlier this week that workers from Jarr Management, of Augusta, are scheduled to start work on Smith’s lot at 8 a.m. Monday.

“Barring any unforeseen circumstance,” Adam Garland said from his office in Richmond’s municipal building, “the work is going ahead as scheduled.”

Garland said he’s seen the petition and has run it by the town’s attorney.

“Town meeting, in our attorney’s opinion, does not have the authority to override district court judge’s ruling, so the town is planning to move forward as planned,” Garland said. “In short, town meeting gives selectmen authority to enforce the land use ordinance. Town meeting also gives selectmen the authority to enter into litigation, so that’s how the town had the authority to move forward with all of these items. The municipal officers — the selectmen — did that, and you know what the result is. Because there is a court order in place, we’re past the point of no return.”

This dispute between Smith and town officials has been running for years.

For more than three decades, Smith has earned cash from selling materials he has collected and stored on his property at 640 Alexander Reed Road to a variety of customers looking for scrap metal or other items.

Town officials had contacted Smith with requests to clean up his property over several years. The matter eventually ended up in district court in Sagadahoc County. The result was a judgment against Smith and a court-ordered remediation plan, dated Oct. 17, 2017, that established a schedule of when Smith was expected to take action.

Listed in that order are the items that Smith was told either to remove or to move back 50 feet from the front edge of his 100-acre property and be screened from public view, including vehicles, gasoline and propane tanks, oil drums, a wood pile, lumber and roofing materials.

Smith has said the 50-foot requirement conflicts in the order with the town’s setback requirements of 20 feet from the front of the building and 10 feet from the site, and that needs to be resolved.

Code Enforcement Officer James Valley has said that in the agricultural district where Smith lives, the setback is 40 feet.

While Smith had shifted some things by last summer, town officials said he had failed to meet the series of required deadlines, and that gave town officials the authority clean up the property as described in the court order.

In December, Garland put the cleanup project out for bid for a third time. No one responded to the first request for bids, issued in the summer of 2018. A second try in September 2018 drew interest from two companies, but the selectmen did not award the bid.

The latest offer resulted in the selectmen awarding the bid to Jarr Management for $18,000, with the requirement that the work be completed no later than March 25.

“For some reason, this has turned into an emergency after 20 years,” Smith said.

As of Thursday, Smith had gathered signatures from about 130 town residents, including his neighbors on Alexander Reed Road.

He’s been collecting signatures every day, but it has been challenging. On his travels, he said one woman gave him a box of cookies and several people have invited him in for coffee.

“I’m on a bicycle and it snows every other day,” he said.

A variety of objects adorn the lawn of David Smith’s residence on the Alexander Reed Road in Richmond in this Aug. 21, 2018, photo. The town has declared the property a junkyard and is planning to have it cleared of the items. Kennebec Journal file photo by Andy Molloy

While Smith is convinced the petition is enough to stop the work, Garland said that’s not the case.

“One of (Smith’s) claims is that town meeting should have the authority to decide whether it wants to pay for the cleanup,” he said. “It’s a court-ordered enforcement. This is being levied as a special tax. It doesn’t need to be raised and appropriated by town meeting to make this happen.”

To recoup the costs of the cleanup, Garland said, the town will put a lien on Smith’s Alexander Reed Road property.

Garland said Smith had the opportunity to appeal the judge’s ruling in 2017, but he did not.

 

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632
[email protected]
Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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