CEASE & DESIST Order Issued: '..This is the Culmination of Years' Worth of Violations..'
Interim Zoning Enforcement Officer Michelle Collette issued a Cease & Desist order to Richard Mavilia regarding land he owns on Pine Trail. In her letter, dated Feb.15,2013, she states that the small parcel of land located across the street from a home that Mavilia also owns, cannot be used for temporary storage.
She stressed that the two parcels, although across the street from one another are not on the same deed. "We have had ongoing complaints from neighbors and this is the culmination of years' worth of violations," she said.
Mavilia's attorney Bob Collins, in his appeal to lift the order, said to the Zoning Board of Appeals that many Groton yards, particularly those in Lost Lake, have septic systems, wells and parking across the roadway from the primary house lot. Collins contends that due to the nature of roadways in the Lost Lake area, "ownership extends across the roadway when one owns (land on) both sides...In the language of the bylaw, this piece is a contiguous piece of land and as such an extension of the home use."
He pointed out that Title V stipulates that a septic system must be located on the main property and said that it is lawful for Mavilia to use the property across the street from his home. He noted that the boat and trailer located on the small piece of property were both registered. "He is not doing anything that is uncommon in Groton. He is storing some items for yard work. This is not a commercial enterprise," he said.
Collins also pointed out that there are cases that have found that it doesn't matter whether a road is a public or private way. "Does this make it illegal if a driveway is located across from the main property on a paper street?" he asked.
ZBA member Bob Cadle said, "It doesn't matter how someone acquires deeds, however they are one (lot). Nowhere in the law does it say a lot cannot be part of land across the street. I do not believe that Groton has a fee interest in roads in the Lost Lake area but that the town only took the 'right to maintain,' when it took on the roads in Lost Lake."
When abutters Kevin and Debra Mendel moved into their house, they said that the small parcel of land next door was used by residents in the area for dumping lawn clippings and was essentially wooded. Mavilia acquired the land about 15 years ago at a tax taking. He has since, with a permit from the Building inspector, constructed a retaining wall from railroad ties.
Collins said, "There is nothing going on this lot that isn't happening elsewhere in Groton," and suggested that the ZBA go out and look at the area and visit the property.
Debra Mendel told the ZBA that there were "solar lights on the property and lights from a garage, boom boxes and filthy language. It creates an attractive nuisance and he has unregistered vehicles."
Town Counsel David Doneski said that the smaller parcel of Mavilia's land was unbuildable. He gave an opinion that the lot, because it is across the street, is not legal for an accessory use, such as a boathouse. He said he was unaware of any case law that says that two parcels bisected by a way can be used as one accessory with one primary across the street. Collins pointed out, "There is no case law that says you can't do this."
Cadle said that he doesn't see this small parcel as an accessory to the primary lot and said he wanted to uphold the Cease & Desist order.