Neighbors end challenge to credit union in Cumberland

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

CUMBERLAND — A lawsuit alleging the Town Council acted inappropriately in approving a Main Street contract zone for Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union was dropped last week, leaving no more obstacles to the credit union’s plan to begin construction this fall.

The lawsuit was filed by credit union abutters Andrew Baca and Melissa Gattine after the council’s vote this spring to approve the contract zone for the former Chase Flower Shop property. They said the lawsuit was one of the few ways they had to maintain their property rights. Town residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of the council decision, 1,533 to 363, in a June 9 referendum.

After meeting with credit union officials to address some of their complaints, including parking on Farwell Avenue, Baca and Gattine came to last week’s Planning Board meeting with a snow-removal issue that Town Manager Bill Shane said should be addressed by the town, since it has little to do with the credit union itself.

Baca and Gattine’s lawyers informed the town last Thursday that the suit had been dropped, Shane said at Monday’s Town Council meeting.

The suit cost taxpayers around $3,500 in legal fees.

Residents still have a 30-day window to appeal last Tuesday’s site plan approval by the Planning Board, but Shane said he doesn’t expect any such appeal.

Shane said he will soon meet with credit union officials to discuss a schedule for construction, but that he expects ground to be broken this fall. He said flower shop demolition could begin in the next few months.

In other business, the Town Council approved consent decrees and $550 fines for two Idlewood residents who violated subdivision rules against removing trees within their building envelopes. The issue was raised when an anonymous complaint came to the town alleging the violation; the code enforcement officer’s investigation found that about 80 percent of the homes in the subdivision were also in violation. Because the code enforcement office is a reactive, rather than pro-active, office, fines have only been issued to the homeowners named in the complaint.

Others in the subdivision have the option of requesting equal treatment, which means that the town would agree to take no further action. A consent decree may make it easier for homeowners to sell their homes in the future, but would carry up to $1,000 in fines, based on decisions made during the recent process to fine the Walbridge and Bagshaw families.

An original agreement carried $300 in legal fees and $500 in fines, along with the requirement that each household do some planting to make up for their cutting. Matt Walbridge requested on Monday that his fine be reduced to $250, because prior to his cutting trees, he called the town and was told he could cut what he’d planned.

Councilors agreed that the town had been complicit in the violation, and that because in each case no neighbors were adversely affected by the landscaping changes, halving the fine was appropriate.

Though the fine decrease was applied to both homeowners, councilors said that the action does not necessarily set a precedent for other neighbors who come forward. Town Manager Shane said each will be taken “on a case-by-case basis; there’s no cookie-cutter for all.”

Councilors also set yard waste facility fees, voting to charge $5 per load or $25 for one year of unlimited residential use. Commercial haulers will be required to pay $250 for an annual pass.

They also set a workshop for Aug. 10 to discuss what to do with a Valley Road area building that burned down last winter and was later abandoned, but is still standing. At that workshop, councilors will meet with its attorney to determine what the town can do to demolish the building, which is considered unsafe and unsightly.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or