Agreement offered on Cousins violations

TREMONT — The town is set to offer a consent agreement to the owners of 45 Harbor Drive regarding several ordinance violations, despite being involved in an ongoing lawsuit filed by the owners of that property.

A notice of violation and order to correct violations of Title 30-A Junkyard was issued to Robert and Judy Cousins on Sept. 27. Five violations were included in the notice that focus on several uninspected and unregistered vehicles, accumulation of worn out or discarded items and residing in a tow-behind camper.

Once they received the violation notice, the Cousins requested a consent agreement with the town in order to address the violations.

During their meeting Monday, selectmen unanimously agreed to authorize Town Manager Chris Saunders and Code Enforcement Officer John Larson to draft a consent agreement asking the Cousins to comply with the order to correct the violations, as well as several other items.

After their restaurant, Cap’n Nemo’s, burned in 2013, the Cousins filed a lawsuit against the town’s volunteer firefighters, among several other parties, claiming they were negligent in fighting the fire. That suit is ongoing and has reached federal court.

In 2014, the Cousins applied for a permit to construct a two-story building with a restaurant on the first floor and living quarters on the second floor. According to Larson, the town’s previous code enforcement officer issued the Cousins a stop work order on the project in October 2015, stating the foundation was too close to the property line. In response the Cousins filed a lawsuit.

The draft consent agreement includes a requirement that the Cousins complete the first floor restaurant by Dec. 30, 2019 and pay a $200 fine as a penalty for failing to apply for necessary permits by that same date. Once the entire construction project is completed, remove all unused items by June 30, 2020.

The document also requires the Cousins to remove a boat — Larson referred to it as an ark — on the property.

In the violation notice, the order to correct the violations asks for removal of all unregistered and uninspected vehicles, removal and proper disposal of all worn out and discarded items, as well as an after-the-fact permit for residing in an unpermitted camper by Oct. 30.

Larson told selectmen that Judy Cousins had already come to the Town Office to address one of the issues.

“She wanted to get a permit for the camper because that was one of the violations,” said Larson during the meeting.

“In the ordinance it actually says they have five years to complete the project,” Larson said to selectmen. “The state doesn’t own the road. It is a right of way. Ownership goes to the center line… I think we need to change the ordinance.”

Five years would mean the Cousins have until December 2019 to complete the first floor, according to Larson. He also explained to selectmen the stop work order was in error because the project was not 30 percent complete at the time it was issued. That plan needed to go back before the planning board, Larson said, to address the issues before construction proceeds.

In the notice of violation given to the Cousins last month, Larson mentions four different incidents when he noticed violations on the property going as far back as June 2017.

“This was the first time I issued a violation,” Larson told the Islander.

The consent agreement Larson and Saunders have been authorized to draft lists deadlines for all violations against the Cousins and their property at 45 Harbor Drive. Larson also offered to include a request that the Cousins drop the federal lawsuit they have filed against the town.

“In this consent agreement I think we’re asking (for) everything we want done,” said Larson. “We want the place cleaned up. I know the town has been through a lot because of all the lawsuits.”

Once the consent agreement has been drafted it will be presented to the Cousins, Saunders explained in an email. If they agree, it will go to the board of selectmen for their Oct. 29 meeting. If either party can’t sign on to the consent agreement, then the violations stand and the Cousins have until Oct. 30 to correct them.

Barring the consent agreement, if the Cousins fail to correct the violations by Oct. 30, then selectmen may authorize Saunders and Larson to initiate action in District Court, according to Saunders.

“I just drafted the consent agreement,” Larson said on Tuesday from his office. “It’s out of my hands now.”

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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