November 26, 2013

Fines hit $5,000 for Maine homeowner with yardful of alleged junk

Wilton town officials are seeking $100 per day from Duane Pollis for piles of scrap that he says have 'a purpose.'


WILTON — Town officials are seeking more than $5,000 in mounting fines from a property owner accused of refusing to clean up piles of scrap and junk in his front yard.

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FINES: Fines against Wilton homeowner Duane Pollis are piling up. Town officials say the home, numerous vehicles and piles of salvaged building materials violates a town ordinance and is imposing fines of $100 per day until the home is compliance.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

The homeowner, Duane Pollis, said the new minimum upkeep ordinance is unfair for ordering him what to do on his property.

Starting Oct. 3, the town has sought a $100 per day from Pollis along with the cost of the town’s attorney fees.

Pollis said Monday that he cannot afford to pay the fine and that he makes less than $14,000 annually doing odd jobs.

Pollis was served with the paperwork from the case Oct. 31. According to the summons, he had 20 days to respond in writing to the town’s complaint against him. The case will be decided in Franklin County Court in Farmington.

He said he has not responded to the town about the case because he feels they will not be able to find a resolution.

Everything in his yard, he said, from the old cars to the five-gallon buckets to the scrap metal, is something he intends to use, recycle or resell. He disagrees with the town ordinance about what he is allowed to do on his property.

“I won’t cater to them,” he said. “I have a purpose for everything I bring here.”

The town’s attorney, Lee Bragg, said previously that the town is able to seek compensation not just in money but Pollis’ other assets, such as his property.

Bragg said Monday there are no new developments in the case.

Pollis said he bought his home in 2000 for $59,000.

The ordinance to enforce a minimum level of property upkeep was debated at length in June before it passed by 79–69 at Town Meeting. About 4,100 people live in Wilton.

Under the ordinance the town has the authority to require homeowners who live downtown or in a designated area just outside downtown to keep their property in “good repair.” Examples of good repair included a yard free of trash and “offensive material,” no missing shingles or crumbling brick exteriors, and they must remove all debris considered a health and safety hazard.

Proponents said the ordinance was necessary to protect property values and maintain the downtown’s appeal.

Opponents said it gives the town unfair control over private property and places a burden on the town’s low-income residents.

Town Manger Rhonda Irish said the town has contacted about five other home owners and had success in helping them clean up, though she would not say who they were, because she said she wanted to treat each resident individually and not compare the cases.

“I don’t want to be pitting one person against another,” she said.

She said the residents were sent a letter from the town and a copy of the ordinance. She said the only homeowner the town is taking civil action against in Pollis.

In the other cases, the town connected the residents with community groups to help clean up the property.

“We’re not trying to fine people. We try to first work with them,” she said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252


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