Cumberland will sue to clean up former junk yard

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council voted unanimously Monday to again sue the owner of a former junk yard to force him to clean up his property.

The decision came after expiration of a 10-day notice the town gave Thomas Greenlaw, former owner of Greenlaw Salvage at 1 Longwoods Road, to remove “all junk materials and unregistered vehicles and parts” from his property.

Town Manager Bill Shane said Greenlaw could be fined $100 or as much as $2,500 for each violation, while a separate fine could be levied for every day a violation persists.

The town will seek an order for corrective action, a significant fine, and attorney’s fees and costs, according to its notice of violation.

The notice was based on information gathered April 28 by Code Enforcement Officer Bill Longley. He said new scrap metal items and junk had been brought to the property, causing it to once again exist as a junkyard – a use no longer allowed in town.

Shane said the town plans to file its lawsuit this week.

“He can’t bring stuff in; he can’t operate as a junk yard,” the town manager said before Monday’s meeting. “The site should be shrinking, not growing. … He lost that grandfathering (to run a junk yard) when we denied his license, and he lost his appeal in the court.”

The junk included three unregistered vehicles, Shane said.

“It’s an eyesore to the neighborhood, as well as a concern for environmental reasons,” he said. “This area does not have town water or sewer, and relies entirely on wells and septic systems, and junk yards do have an adverse impact to those systems.”

Greenlaw told the council everything on the property was there “in conjunction with” Shane and Longley, and that he was told he would be allowed to have two unregistered vehicles.

“They say I’ve been hauling equipment in there,” he said. “I haven’t hauled anything in there pursuant to scrap metal of any kind.”

He acknowledged that two oil tanks are now on the property, but that he purchased them to use one in his home, while the other would be used elsewhere.

Greenlaw, 71, said Longley said he could do mechanical work on the property, and that he has done so for his family, at no cost.

“I did generate some things from that,” Greenlaw said, claiming that other new material on his property came from his cellar being cleaned out.

“I’ll get rid of that stuff all at the same time,” he said. “… There’s been no junk actually brought in there for the sole purpose of running a junk yard. I gave that up a long time ago.”

The Maine Superior Court in March 2009 upheld the Town Council’s 2007 decision to deny renewal of a junk yard permit for Greenlaw Salvage. The council cited inadequate screening along Route 9, deficient handling of fluids through failure to prevent leaks, failure to maintain a log of automobiles on the property, and operation of a junk-yard business that was not viable.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court later denied Greenlaw’s appeal of the Superior Court decision. The court ordered Greenlaw to clean up his property, and when Greenlaw continued to operate, the town successfully sued him for $10,000.

He consequently cleaned the site to a level acceptable by the town, Shane said. But now the town is seeking the ability to monitor the property. If Greenlaw still fails to clean it, the town could do so and place a lien on the property to recover its costs.

“I don’t know how to get your attention other than hit you in the pocket book,” Shane told Greenlaw. “And it’s not to anybody’s benefit. We pay for attorneys, you pay for attorneys, and nobody wins.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Sidebar Elements

Thomas Greenlaw says his property at 1 Longwoods Road in Cumberland is not a junk yard. The town disagrees.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.