Junkyard dispute won’t have a jury trial

TREMONT — Property owners taken to court by the town over an alleged illegal junkyard will not get a jury trial in the court matter, according to a recent decision by Hancock County Superior Court.

On May 15 of this year, the town filed a Rule 80K action regarding a notice of violation and order to correct violations of the town’s junkyard ordinance against Robert and Judy Cousins. Under the rule, the court can order violators to pay fines and to stop or correct a violation.

Outside of the “operation of an illegal junkyard and/or automobile graveyard,” as stated in the suit, other violations included opening up a driveway without a permit and having a live-in camper on the property for more than 90 days without a permit.

On May 30, the Cousinses asked to have a jury trial to decide the outcome of the suit.

Town Manager Chris Saunders reported to the Board of Selectmen last week that the court has denied that request. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Jan. 30 at the request of the judge for the case.

Code Enforcement Officer John Larson had passed the 45 Harbor Drive address multiple times over a year and noticed several ordinance violations. In Sept. 2018, he issued a notice of violation and an order to correct violations of the junkyard ordinance to the Cousinses.

Nearly a month later, at the request of the couple, the town offered the Cousinses a consent agreement in which several deadlines for the multiple violations listed were extended. According to Saunders, that consent agreement was never signed by the Cousinses.

In December 2013, a fire destroyed a restaurant owned by the Cousinses, called Cap’n Nemos, on the property. They applied for a permit in 2014 to construct a two-story building with a restaurant on the first floor and residence on the second floor. The consent agreement drawn up by the town to address the code violations included a requirement that the Cousinses complete the first floor of the building by Dec. 2019.

When the 80K suit was filed last year, Larson told selectmen that Judy Cousins had come in to get a permit for residing in the camper on the property after the violation notice had been issued. None of the other violations were addressed, which is why the town decided to hand authoritative action over to the court.

The town is requesting the court impose monetary fines and penalties against the Cousinses for zoning ordinance violations, as well as attorney’s fees and costs to the town for filing the suit.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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