‘Unlicensed junk yard’
By Deborah McDermott
KITTERY, Maine — A Rogers Road man said he’s had it with looking at a neighbor’s unsightly property dotted with an old car, boats, a decrepit camper and other debris and “junk,” but he’s stymied where to turn since the town code enforcement officer found no violation of town code.
Kurt Kavanaugh said he has been putting up with the activity on property owned by Kittery Point resident Bruce Piche for the past decade, but this past summer put him over the top.
“This summer it escalated. There were boats, jet skis, snowmobiles, landscape debris everywhere. Every day, things were picked up and dropped off,” he said. “I was embarrassed to have friends over and have a nice dinner on the deck.”
Piche did not return calls for comment for this story. His wife, Thomasine, said Piche spoke with Kavanaugh and intends to clean up the property. Kavanaugh countered that he hadn’t heard from Piche in a month or more, and over the years Piche had made the same offer and done nothing.
Kavanaugh said he has several concerns.
For one, the area is residential, and Piche’s Manson Avenue Extension property, which has no house, appears to be used for commercial purposes, he said. He said dump trucks regularly bring fill onto the land, and at least once this past summer he saw what appeared to be a transaction involving one of the boats.
“It’s an unlicensed junk yard, it seems to me,” said Kavanaugh.
But there is also a huge nuisance factor. “One time, I was out here trying to have a nice dinner at 6, 7 at night and he came out there and turned on the loudest leaf blower I’ve ever heard. These dump trucks come in at all hours,” he said.
Kavanaugh is not alone with his concerns. Neighbor Walt Wheeler, former state representative, said he’s been trying to get Piche to clean up his lot as well.
“He keeps all this crap in there. His daughter dumps horse manure out there and in the summertime heat you can smell it,” he said. “I don’t know why he can do it, because I think the town ordinance says you can’t use your back yard as a junk yard.”
Former Code Enforcement Officer Heather Ross, after visiting the site on Sept. 16, found no violation of the town’s property maintenance code. She quotes the code, which states that property must be maintained “in a condition free of any nuisance, unsafe or unsanitary conditions” or “accumulation” of a litany of material from household trash, to junk, to scrap iron, worn out machinery, glass or more than two vehicles not bearing valid inspection stickers.
The code said the materials above, if they are for “private use of the property owner” — and thus presumably not accumulated — can be stored on the property as long as it’s properly screened.
Ross told Kavanaugh she noticed a fence had been erected around the site, which she considered screening, but Kavanaugh installed the fence himself, and Piche’s property can still clearly be viewed from the second and third floors of Kavanaugh’s house.
Town Planner Chris DiMatteo and Shelly Bishop subsequently came onto Kavanaugh’s property to view the abutting land “and have a better appreciation of your complaint,” DiMatteo said in an email. However, ultimately, they backed Ross who filed a formal decision in the matter. Kavanaugh has 30 days to appeal it to the Kittery Board of Appeals. He is still weighing that option, as he looks to contact state officials to try to find some relief.
“I am in a state of disbelief that they said they are not going to do anything,” he said.
Town Manager Nancy Colbert Puff said the property may violate a state nuisance law, and she has asked Police Chief Theodor Short to investigate that possibility.
Meanwhile, Kavanaugh said his aims are pretty simple.
“I just want it cleaned up. It can be a field. That’s fine. I just want the junk removed,” he said.