2013-06-07 / Front Page

House poses issue

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


 The South Portland Code Enforcement Office brought a nuisance complaint against the owners of the property at 119 and 125 Wythburn Road, claiming the unfinished construction project there poses a health hazard. Mike Vaillancourt, the attorney for the Patterson family, which owns the properties, said his clients admit they need to finish the construction work, but the home presents no safety concerns. (Michael Vaillancourt courtesy photo) The South Portland Code Enforcement Office brought a nuisance complaint against the owners of the property at 119 and 125 Wythburn Road, claiming the unfinished construction project there poses a health hazard. Mike Vaillancourt, the attorney for the Patterson family, which owns the properties, said his clients admit they need to finish the construction work, but the home presents no safety concerns. (Michael Vaillancourt courtesy photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland City Council will give a property owner on Wythburn Road and the city’s code enforcement office one more chance to come to a mutual agreement on a construction plan before deciding whether that property constitutes a public nuisance.

Last fall, the city amended its nuisance ordinance to include properties that, for more than 15 days, store worn-out, broken or deteriorated items outside that “pose a sanitation, fire, health or safety risk at the property or to neighboring properties.”


Some residents of the Thornton Heights neighborhood signed a petition about a year ago asking the city to declare the 119 Wythburn residence a public nuisance. Craig Patterson said at a public hearing Monday, June 3 that no neighbors in the area came directly to him, which made addressing concerns difficult. (South Portland Code Enforcement Office courtesy photo) Some residents of the Thornton Heights neighborhood signed a petition about a year ago asking the city to declare the 119 Wythburn residence a public nuisance. Craig Patterson said at a public hearing Monday, June 3 that no neighbors in the area came directly to him, which made addressing concerns difficult. (South Portland Code Enforcement Office courtesy photo) Additionally, a provision was included in the ordinance that would allow the council to identify a nuisance at a public hearing, issue an abatement order to clean up the offending property, then bring the property owners to court if that order is not complied with.

Craig Patterson, the owner of a property at 119 Wythburn Road, was the first city resident to come in front of the council for a public hearing under the new nuisance ordinance Monday, June 3 after a complaint filed by Code Enforcement Officer Pat Doucette.

Patterson came to the meeting with his wife Victoria and four children, who also live in the house, as well as his mother Nataleen, who lives next door at 125 Wythburn Road, a property that was also under review.

The issues at the two properties stem from a building permit the city issued in 2005 to the Pattersons to build an addition on their house. Doucette said she has been working with the family for the last two years, hoping to find a solution, but she said little has been done.

“The lack of progress and the inability of the property owner to finish the construction project is a major safety concern,” Doucette said Monday.

About a year ago, residents in the Thornton Heights neighborhood signed a petition to the city council to declare the 119 and 125 Wythburn Road properties a nuisance.

Neighbor Scott Day said Monday night he notices some progress on the work when the city puts pressure on the Pattersons, but once that pressure is relieved the property goes back to the status quo.

“Eight years is long enough that we’ve had to put up with having to look at a mess,” Day said.

The Patterson family’s lawyer, Michael Vaillancourt, called the issue in the Thornton Heights neighborhood a “tempest in a teapot.”

He argued Craig Patterson admits he needs to work faster to complete construction on the home. But the materials in the yard, such as a rototiller, lumber, pipe, siding and some children’s toys are common at many Maine properties, and do not present a health or safety hazard.

Vaillancourt also said Patterson has been working to clean up the yard around the house recently, rather than focusing on the foundation work of the home itself to address the concerns of neighbors and city staff.

But Doucette said the progress made over the course of recent months has not been significant enough.

“I feel the junk and debris on this lot has just been moved around and neatened up,” Doucette said.

Patterson spoke at the meeting to note that he never received any direct feedback from his neighbors about the issues at his house, which made addressing their concerns difficult.

“I’ve never had anyone say anything to me. So as to exactly what people don’t like, I’m only guessing,” he said.

Carl Dimow lives next door to the Pattersons at 107 Wythburn Road. He said the family has always been cordial, pleasant neighbors, and he has no problem with their property. Dimow said the issue has been “blown out of proportion.”

“People live differently, and part of being neighbors is accepting different ways of living,” Dimow added.

The city council debated for nearly two hours about the most effective method to ensure that the work is completed without causing more discomfort and friction in the neighborhood. Ultimately, the council voted unanimously, with Councilor Alan Livingston absent, to postpone the hearing. The two sides will have two weeks to formulate an action plan, which will be presented to the council on Monday, June 17.

The council also added specific benchmarks to the timeline for work to be completed. They gave the Pattersons until Sept. 1 to make the property “weather tight” and sealed off from rain, then an additional two months, until Dec. 1, to complete the siding.

Doucette said Tuesday she was pleased with any result that would lead to the completion of the construction work at the property.

“I think any time we can sit down we can work with the property owner it’s a step in the right direction,” she said.

Vaillancourt said in a statement released via email Tuesday that the Pattersons are also looking forward to a resolution to the conflict.

“The Patterson family wants to work with the city to resolve this situation amicably, so long as any prospective agreement is both reasonable and does not interfere with the Patterson’s personal property rights,” Vaillancourt said in the statement.

Return to top