TREMONT — Seven months after a stop work order halted reconstruction of Cap’n Nemo’s restaurant, the owners are complaining that they have been unable to get answers from town officials about resuming work.
Last October, code enforcement officer Debbi Nickerson issued Bob and Judy Cousins a stop work order after she determined a section of concrete slab poured for a foundation was closer to the property line than allowed and indicated in the building permit issued in April 2015. Nickerson directed the couple to remove the section of slab that is in violation before resuming construction.
On Monday, the Cousins attended a regular selectmen’s meeting, where they tried to make their case to selectmen. The matter was not on the meeting agenda.
“What sort of due process do we have here?” asked Judy Cousins. The code enforcement officer “told us all we could do is take you to court. Is that what your want me to do? File a lawsuit?”
Town Manager Dana Reed explained that under Tremont’s zoning ordinance, a code enforcement officer’s enforcement action can only be appealed through the state court system. The board of selectmen, the board of appeals or other municipal bodies have no authority to overturn or even consider that decision, Reed said.
“I’m sorry if you don’t feel that’s appropriate, but that’s what the voters of the town approved,” Reed told the Cousins.
Bob Cousins apparently was not satisfied with the answer and indicated that a battle in court could be expensive for the town, especially if the couple were to sue for compensation for lost business.
“It’s costing you $800 a day,” Bob Cousins said. “That’s what we were doing for business.”
Cousins was critical of the town’s handling of the matter, saying that this was no way to run a “business.”
“What you have done is going to be very expensive,” he said.
Cap’n Nemo’s was destroyed in a December 2013 fire. The couple later filed a federal lawsuit against members of the Tremont Volunteer Fire Department and others, alleging the defendants conspired to allow the restaurant burn to the ground. A judge dismissed both the lawsuit and a motion by the couple for reconsideration of that decision.
The couple, who represent themselves, subsequently filed an appeal in the U.S. District Court of Appeals. The court has not issued an opinion on the appeal.