WATERFORD – The boathouse is really just a few pieces of wood barely holding together, and the whole structure looks as if a hummingbird could knock it down if it landed on it the wrong way.
The town’s code enforcement officer has been asked by selectmen to issue a letter to the property owner with the order to tear the structure down for safety reasons, the final step before the fight goes to court, a town official said.
But its owner, Scott Wels, says the boathouse next to Keoka Lake on Route 35 will stay put, even if he has to reinforce it by filling it with cinder blocks. He said his decision is more a symbolic gesture of civil disobedience than a sentimental need to preserve the old thing.
Hanging from the boathouse, a yellow banner reads, “www. savetheboathouse.com,” which is a Web site Wels’ wife, Kelly, created that explains the drawn-out disagreement between Wels and selectmen over the fate of the boathouse.
The site also contains some poetic rhapsodies by the Wels, like “seasons came and seasons went, yet the boathouse, like a sentinel standing guard overlooking Keoka, stood silent and still … Enduring many years of the summer sun, spring rains, autumns winds and winter snows, the old boathouse faithfully stood her ground.”
In 2004, the board asked Wels to tear down the shed, which sits within feet of the road, saying it was so dilapidated it posed a threat to a child who might wander into it.
Selectman Whizzer Wheeler said Maine laws are clear that if a structure is considered hazardous, the town can order it be repaired or pulled down.
Wels originally agreed to pull the shed apart, but asked if he could wait until he returned home from his tour of duty in Iraq. Wels is part of the National Guard.
Then, half-way through his tour, Wels received an e-mail from Wheeler asking him to remove it or have someone else do it.
Wheeler said he was spurred to do this when the building “started taking a more rakish angle.”
“I was surprised (the selectmen) reneged on their initial deal, and wondered why they thought it was so important to bother me in Iraq,” Wels said. He added, “If (Wheeler’s) willing to do that to me overseas, I wonder what he’s doing here. He’s been running roughshod over people.”
Wheeler is an outspoken selectmanm in pushing forward to do what he figures is best for Waterford. He has worked on revamping the tax code for permanently parked RVs at Keoka Beach Campground to tax them more like homes, as well as pushed for the adoption of land-use ordinances to better control growth in town.
The Wels said they have received letters of support from Waterford residents “who have vented their opinions against the select board.”
Wheeler said he wasn’t aware of people being upset, but that if people are frustrated, they can talk to him about it. And he added that if Wels doesn’t comply with the code enforcement officer, the town will have to pursue litigation.
Wels said that’s fine with him. He added that no one has ever seen a child near the shack, and that both Route 35 and the lake are more dangerous to children than his boathouse.
“I’ll keep it up until he’s out of office,” Wels said.