SOUTHWEST HARBOR — After failing to get MDI Lobster Company to correct code violations it had imposed, the town is taking the business to court.
Nearly a year after having their plan for a tent, food truck and storage shed approved by the town’s Planning Board, with conditions, owners of the Clark Point Road business have yet to get it into compliance, according to Code Enforcement Officer John Larson.
Larson visited the waterfront site earlier this season and issued a notice of violation via certified mail, which was returned to the town, according to a memo to Select Board members from Interim Town Manager Dana Reed. The notice was then served to the business through the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office. There has been no effort on the part of MDI Lobster Company to correct the violations or appeal the CEO’s decision within the timeframe to do so, Reed noted.
Members of the Select Board were asked during their meeting last Tuesday to authorize Larson to file an 80K enforcement action with the Hancock County District Court. Select Board members unanimously approved the action. They then were asked to approve funds for a local attorney to represent the town in the process. That too was approved by all board members present.
According to Reed’s explanation, Larson visited the business at the beginning of July and found three different violations of the plan approved by the Planning Board in September 2020. They included customers parked in a dedicated right of way and a dumpster and 6-foot-high fence in the wrong location on the property.
“I don’t know how it got to this point because I have not done anything that warrants court,” said MDI Lobster Company owner Nicholas Sayre, who was given the opportunity to speak during the meeting. “The dumpster: I moved it, even though I shouldn’t have had to. The fence: my drawing is exactly what I did. I did not go with Mr. Clark’s drawing that wasn’t approved… This other stuff is all civil.”
Sayre then asked town officials if someone could explain specifically why the business was being taken to court.
“I had provided Mr. Sayre and his partner with a copy of the Planning Board approval that he received to operate the MDI Lobster business,” Larson explained. “There were conditions on that approval, which included the location of the dumpster, a fence and parking in the right of way, which MDI Lobster failed to abide by.”
This isn’t the first time the town has had to take a strong hand with MDI Lobster Company. When the co-owners, Sayre and Joe DeBeck, opened the business a few years ago, mainly dealing with lobster fishermen by selling them bait and buying their product, they upset a few neighbors. In order to keep the bait they were selling at the proper temperature for storage, they brought a large refrigerated trailer onto the property and hooked it up to a generator that ran 24/7.
After the town heard from several neighbors, including business owners who said they were losing money because the noise was more than guests could deal with, officials decided to take action. They drew up a consent agreement that was signed by the business owners.
Under the terms of a consent agreement between the town and MDI Lobster Company, if the “objectionable” noise produced by a refrigerated trailer on the property had not been reduced or stopped by April 1, 2019, the company would be charged $100 per day, plus the town’s legal costs.
The company missed the deadline, and on April 2, the town’s Select Board agreed to grant a three-day extension. A day later, former Town Manager Justin VanDongen visited the facility and found that the trailer had been unloaded and shut down.
“I gave them opportunity to appeal this,” Larson explained about the recent situation. “I told them what the process was. They failed to do it and I felt I had no recourse except to come to the Select Board and ask the Select Board to authorize an 80K action in District Court… Then if MDI Lobster is in violation of a consent decree, then it’s the judge, they’ll be in contempt of court instead of that consent agreement with the town.”