2017-01-12 / Front Page

Resident sues Saco officials

By Anthony Aloisio Staff Writer

SACO – City resident Barbara Colman, who lives on Stockman Avenue, has announced that she is suing six city councilors, the mayor and the city administrator, claiming that the council’s process in approving an amendment to a contract zone agreement was faulty.

In December, the council amended a contract zone agreement for 95 King St., formerly Winterhaven Assisted Living Facility. The contract zone agreement was first approved in 1996, and Thornton Academy sought in December to have it amended for their purposes. The amended agreement allows the former assisted living facility to be used as housing by the school.

Colman contends in her complaint to York County Superior Court that changes to the agreement should have been submitted to the planning board, but they were not. She uploaded that complaint with an announcement on her personal Facebook page on Jan. 5. Colman is reprsenting herself in the matter. The court clerk’s office said that they did not yet have the complaint recorded, but said that it’s possible it has been received and not yet processed.

Colman’s claim centers around the fact that the amended agreement allows Thornton Academy to own the property without paying taxes to the city. Colman claims in her complaint that she will suffer injuries in the form of increased rent, since the city’s loss of tax revenue will result in an increased mil rate.

“What you’re looking at is a contract zone that had language in it that said, ‘if there’s gonna be amendments to this, it can come back to council,’” City Administrator Kevin Sutherland said at the council’s Jan. 3 meeting. “It’s a contract. The zone is already designed, the zone stays with that location, there was no changes to the building which would have then driven it back to the planning board. My interpretation of the language was that it came to council, and went through the full, correct process for council to make that change.”

Also at that meeting, Ward 7 Councilor Nathan Johnston, who is not currently a defendant in the suit, pointed out language in the original agreement that he believed supported Ms. Colman’s case.

“The site shall be developed substantially in conformance with (approved) plans,” the agreement read. “Minor changes may be approved by the staff of the city of Saco. Any changes determined by the staff to be ‘major’ shall be submitted to the planning board for review.”

Some council members met in executive session on Monday, Jan. 9, to discuss the matter with the city’s attorney, according to Ward 6 Councilor Eric Cote. Cote said that he did not attend the session because of conflicts of interest – Cote, an attorney, said he has represented Colman as a legal client in the past.

Other councilors contacted declined to comment on the suit.

“Obviously (Ms. Colman) feels that she has a strong case,” said Ward 3 Councilor William Doyle, “the city feels that it has a strong case, and we’ll take it through the adjudication process. That’s what it’s designed for.”

Contact Staff Writer Anthony Aloisio at news@inthecourier.com.

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