A town property owner has been ordered to pay $15,000 in fines to the town after a year-long dispute over property maintenance was recently settled in Skowhegan District Court.
April Carrigan was ordered to pay $15,000 to the town of Madison on Feb. 8, according to court records, for violating the town’s property maintenance ordinance at her 68 Old Point Ave. home.
Her boyfriend, George Hand, who also lives at the property, was cleaning up the yard on Friday as per the town’s order, but said the fine is unfair.
“Everything we have here is for a purpose,” said Hand, 39. “We’re trying to get off the grid as much as possible.”
The order comes as residents are being asked to consider a stricter property maintenance ordinance that would allow the town to take swifter action against violators and charge them if the town has to clean up the property.
The 68 Old Point Ave. property, which includes a detached garage, pig pen and several sheds, is one of about a dozen that the town cited in 2015 for violations of the property maintenance ordinance, according to Town Manager Tim Curtis, and one of three cases that the town had to take to court.
A public hearing on the proposed changes to the property maintenance ordinance and other ordinances is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Old Point Avenue School.
The town is also proposing the designation of a Madison village area, the establishment of a minimum lot size and changes to two other ordinances that will be voted on at the Town Meeting in June.
“Hopefully this ordinance will expedite the court process, because we’ll be asking the court to allow the town to actually hire a service to come and remove the debris, unlicensed vehicles or that sort of thing,” Curtis said. “It will also allow us to give that bill to the property owners.”
The 68 Old Point Ave. property could also be affected by the creation of a downtown village area in Madison, which Curtis said could lay groundwork for future ordinances pertaining only to the more populated areas of Madison.
The proposed village area would consist of the downtown area where the population is at least 500 residents per square mile.
Curtis said the driving force behind the proposal for a village area were complaints about fireworks and farm animals — which Carrigan and Hand keep on their in-town property.
They have a pig, Oinker, who lives in a pen in their yard, as well as rabbits and in the spring ducks and chickens.
Hand said he sees no problem with having farm animals in town or with many of the other items on his front yard, which include a duck and chicken pen, playground equipment, driftwood that is used for making art and furniture, and burn barrels.
Much of the debris and other items in the yard are also remnants of Hand’s businesses, an auto repair shop and later a construction business that he operated out of the garage behind the house. He said he has been out of work since last summer because of a brain injury and feels the town has unfairly targeted his girlfriend’s property because of a dispute with one of their neighbors over water and sewer lines.
Curtis said the town’s concerns with the property mainly included scrap metal and unlicensed junk vehicles, and that those are among the specific items that need to be removed from the property. He said the proposed change to the ordinance will allow the town to obtain a court judgment sooner in property maintenance disputes, a move that could ultimately reduce fines for some property owners since the town currently has the ability to charge penalties for each day that a violation continues.
“We’re not really proud to promote (the fine),” Curtis said. “But we want people to see that we have a process and we’re trying to make it better.”