Wednesday, December 11, 2013
MONMOUTH — The town's clash with a Back Street property owner over what it describes as an illegal junkyard appears headed to court.
Town Manager Curtis Lunt met with the property owner, David Mihalik, last week in what Lunt believes was a last-ditch effort to avoid litigation.
Lunt said that effort failed when Mihalik, who denies he is operating a junkyard, refused to submit a plan for removing the cars.
"We're not anxious to take people to court, but the state law is pretty clear," Lunt said.
Mihalik, who said the town has singled him out for prosecution as part of a long-standing conflict with officials, says the state's junkyard laws don't apply to most of his vehicles, which he says are exempt.
"He wants me to get rid of everything," Mihalik said after the meeting with Lunt. "I have vehicles here that are in extremely nice condition. I can tell you right now I ain't getting rid of these cars, come hell or high water."
The dispute started this spring when town Code Enforcement Officer David Shaw notified Mihalik that he was operating an automobile graveyard and a junkyard without a permit. An automobile graveyard, according to state law, is an outdoor area used to store three or more unregistered or uninspected vehicles. A junkyard is defined as an outdoor area used to store or dismantle worn out equipment or waste material.
At a hearing before the town's board of appeals in June, Mihalik's appeal was overturned 5-0.
According to official findings of that meeting, Mihalik provided an inventory that included more than 30 vehicles on his property at 17 Back St., which is just a few hundred feet off U.S. Route 202. Mihalik testified that 17 of the vehicles were uninspected and unregistered.
Mihalik, who is going through bankruptcy after losing his trucking business in 2008, said he hoped to begin using the vehicles once his economic situation improved.
"He could not state a date by which he could accomplish that," board members wrote.
Mihalik acknowledged this week that four vehicles, including a 1996 Cadillac he described as showroom condition, meet the state's threshold for a graveyard because they are neither registered nor insured. The remaining vehicles all are important to his trucking business, are farming equipment or are collector vehicles, making them exempt from state law.
"I just collect cars. It's what I do," Mihalik said. "It's almost like you don't have any rights in this country anymore."
Mihalik said he has been told by his bankruptcy attorney that he cannot get rid of any of the cars on his property until the case has been settled in court.
"I'm doing everything in my power to do what's right here," he said.
Mihalik said he and town officials have a long-standing dispute that dates to when he ran a large trucking business and his wife ran a daycare center on the property. He believes the town is singling him out while ignoring other property in the area that could qualify as a junkyard.
"I have 72 pictures, all of properties within three miles," he said. "All are worse than mine." The town inspects property that is noticeable from the road and follows up on complaints, Lunt said. "We've had complaints on this one," he said.
Lunt said the town is willing to give Mihalik time to remove the vehicles. He doesn't believe Mihalik would be eligible for a junkyard permit. "Most people in that situation want to work out a schedule," Lunt said. "If he thinks we're harassing him, that's not our objective."
Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Craig Crosby can be contacted at 621-5642 or at: