Anonymous tip in Cumberland leads to fines for Idlewood residents
CUMBERLAND — At least two Idlewood subdivision households face approximately $1,000 in fines after an anonymous complaint to the town suggested they may have violated subdivision conditions on their properties.
Final town action will be decided Monday, July 13, in the regular Town Council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.
The complaint, signed by a "concerned resident," said that John and Jana Bagshaw and Matt and Kathy Walbridge, who live in the subdivision off Range Road, had done some "major clear cutting" on their properties.
"I would be surprised to find it is not interfering with an easement or beyond their property line," the complainant wrote. "It would really bother me to find that these projects were and are being done without town approval to ensure the codes ... weren't being ignored."
When code enforcement officer Bill Longley investigated the complaint, he found that prohibited cutting and filling outside the building envelopes had indeed occurred, and agreed that it was a violation of the 1995 subdivision rules. According to Town Manager Bill Shane, Longley further found that "a majority of homes (in Idlewood) are in noncompliance" with Planning Board conditions of approval.
Because the town doesn't go out looking for violations, but rather reacts to complaints, only the Bagshaws and Walbridges currently face fines, which are expected to be finalized by the Town Council July 13.
Shane has recommended that in exchange for $500 in attorney fees and $500 in fines that will go toward future conservation efforts in the town, each household will be guaranteed no further action from the town. Each household will also be responsible for replanting on their properties.
Although only two homes are immediately affected, it is not unlikely that others in violation would come forward requesting the same agreement, Shane said, since all Idlewood homeowners who have violated the subdivision conditions will have a hard time selling their homes in the future if title insurance companies inspect the subdivision approval records. That inspection, he said, is becoming more and more common because it prevents lawsuits related to title violations.
Unsure of whether the complainant is an Idlewood resident, a concerned Cumberland citizen, "or someone with an ax to grind," Shane said say he or she was "very knowledgeable" and well researched on the town and subdivision rules – "not your typical homeowner."
Though Shane added that it was "too bad" the issue came up in the first place, he said the violations are clear.
Matt Walbridge said Wednesday that he didn't want to comment on the issue and the Bagshaws could not be reached, but Shane said both households have been cooperative. He said others seeking consent decrees can come forward "at their own prerogative."
Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.