Harpswell, used car dealer settle land use complaint

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HARPSWELL — The Board of Selectmen last week approved the final terms of a mediated settlement in a land use violation complaint against Harpswell Auto Sales.

The complaint was drafted in October by Code Enforcement Officer Fred Cantu against business owner Gene Graffam.

In documentation that dates back to 2016, the town alleges Graffam refused to move vehicles off his lot after officials said he was blocking access and a right of way to Route 24. The town also said Graffam was parking vehicles outside the boundaries of his lot.

The agreement includes several requirements that must be met so Graffam can continue operating without further violating town codes or ordinances. He must remove a structure that was expanded without a permit, reduce the number of vehicles on the lot, and erect a 4-foot fence. Terms of mediation also require Graffam to submit to the Planning Board an engineered drainage plan for stormwater runoff from impermeable surfaces on a portion of his property by Sept. 1, 2019.

Mediation terms also require Harpswell Auto Sales to perform an inspection of the existing subsurface wastewater disposal system to accommodate and ensure adequate capacity for its dwellings and employees, and to reimburse the town’s attorney’s fees, estimated at $20,000.

“Enforcement is going to sit on my shoulders,” Cantu told selectmen Nov. 1. “That also means that in the winter time if (Graffam) can’t make it work then he has to put fewer cars on the lot, it’s that simple.”

According to Cantu, if cars are parked on Route 24, the Department of Transportation is the only entity that can enforce the right of way and easement on the state roads. However, if the cars are parked on Route 24 and also parked on parts of the business property, Cantu can enforce the codes, which are laid out in the mediation terms.

Selectman David Chipman said both parties wanted to find a common ground and didn’t want to put anyone out of business. Harpswell Auto Service has been operating since 1984.

Graffam said he thinks the terms are fair and is happy the mediation terms have been agreed upon.

“I feel like we both did some give and take and came to a fair agreement,” Graffam said. “I believe I offer the town a good service and I just want to put this behind me and continue what I have been doing for years.”

Harpswell Selectman Kevin Johnson reviews documents on Nov. 1 regarding the town’s lawsuit against Harpswell Auto Sales.

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