Lumbery in Cape Elizabeth. Mike Friedland

CAPE ELIZABETH – Lumbery is a local lumber yard and hardware store, located on 287 Ocean House Road. There has been an ongoing dispute over zoning issues since 2020. The town has brought a lawsuit as a result of the dispute. During the meeting, several people advocated for simply dropping the lawsuit. Two councilors, Tim Reiniger and Susan Gillis, voted against the proposal to go to mediation. The council voted 5-2 to keep the lawsuit in place while waiting for assistance and advice from a mediator.

The core issue for Lumbery relates to storing and displaying merchandise in its parking lot, including items such as picnic tables, wood, and mulch. The displays require periodic adjustments, leading the lumber store to deviate from its on-site plan. The issue for Lumbery is the requirement to file for an amendment to the on-site plan each time the merchandise is moved and rearranged in the parking lot.

During discussions, there was an emphasis on the need to review and potentially amend town ordinances. Currently, Lumbery is facing fines ranging from $100 to $5,000 per day of non-compliance. Council member Caitlin Jordan said that if the council were to drop the lawsuit, the council would be saying it is OK for a business to be non-compliant. That is why Jordan proposed the mediation motion. She said the goal was to “find a solution to get everyone on the same page, come into compliance, and the lawsuit goes away because you’re not out of compliance.”

“I am not at all happy that the hastily written, inaccurate lawsuit with fines that could exceed $4.5 million which was filed against myself personally, for some odd reason, as well as Lumbery is still in place and being utilized as a coercive tool in a negotiation that is less about broken rules and more about rules that are broken.” said Friedland in a written statement.

An amended motion to hire a mediator and conduct a public mediation workshop in public with a stay on the violations for  Lumbery was approved with a 5-2 vote. The mediation will be a workshop that will be open to the public, although the date has not been set yet. Friedland welcomed mediation and expressed hope that the town’s ordinances will be reviewed and possibly revised. He said he just wants the laws to work for everybody. “And I am hopeful that positive change is coming, not just for Lumbery, but for many folks who have been frustrated by a culture where precedence is King and common sense need not apply,” said Friedland in an email.

Chair Jeremy Gabrielson made an additional motion to review current policies regarding violations of the land-use ordinance. That motion passed unanimously, 7-0. Friedland clarified, “by the way, I think your idea is awesome. I wish it would have happened years ago. I do think laws are necessary.” Friedland went on to say that he would come to have a dialogue whether or not there was a lawsuit. He said, “I am invested in the town and if I am still in violation, you still have a right to come after me. It’s in my best interest to get these ordinances changed. That’s my motivation; I can’t keep existing in a business where the rules say I’m in violation. But I am hopeful that an independent mediator, in an effort to resolve this dispute, will be able to determine what went wrong, not just with the filing of the lawsuit but with all the actions and decisions that led to the current situation.”

Gabrielson said the motion to review current policies is important, “so that we can establish a clear policy framework that says when we will move forward with enforcement action against a property.” Gabrielson underscored the importance of reviewing current policies to establish a transparent framework for enforcement actions against property violations. “I would truly like to be part of this change and I am thankful that the Cape town councilors have given me this opportunity. I look forward to meeting with the mediator and working toward a sensible resolution,” said Friedland.

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