NORWAY — The Board of Selectmen has given the go-ahead to Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman to bring the owner of the Odd Fellows Hall to court for creating a nuisance and danger with the Main Street building.
Corey-Whitman said she sent four letters and four emails to Sam Patel of Jasmin LLC in Westbrook since late April advising him the broken windows must be repaired. Glass has been falling on Main Street and in the alley between the hall and the Opera House, creating an “unsafe and hazardous condition” for the public, she said.
In late May, Patel told Corey-Whitman that a glass company has measured the windows and glass had been ordered. He also said he asked a contractor to cover the windows with plywood until the glass could be installed. But, several weeks later, the broken windows in the front were only partially covered with plywood.
“This was his idea of fixing the windows. I didn't think he was taking the town seriously. Our next action is district court,” Corey-Whitman told selectmen Thursday night.
Patel, a retailer in southern Maine, purchased the empty, three-story brick building in December from TD Bank. It stands at 380 Main St. next to the Opera House. It was transferred to Jasmin LLC, a limited liability company registered in Westbrook, on Dec. 14, 2012.
Patel, who owns Sam's Smoke & Novelties in Windham and a similar retail store at Five Corners on Route 26 in Poland, did not respond to messages from the Sun Journal left at his Poland store. Attempts to reach his attorney, Peter Bitham, registered agent for Jasmin LLC, were also unsuccessful.
Selectmen voted unanimously to take the issue to court.
“We're behind you all the way,” Selectman Warren Sessions said.
The basement and first floor of the hall were built in 1894 after the great fire destroyed much of the downtown business district. The other floors were added in 1910. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the historic downtown district.
The third floor contained a high-ceiling ceremonial space for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Norway Lodge No. 16, who owned the building during the 19th century. The second floor had a kitchen and large dining area, along with law offices and a courthouse. The first floor has traditionally been storefronts.
Dawn and Harvey Solomon of New Horizons Capital Investment in Norway purchased the building in July 2008 for $63,500. They told town officials they planned to renovate it and reopen storefronts on the first floor. They gutted the interior and secured the back wall before the bank foreclosed on the property in 2011.
Renovations stopped in 2010 just before Dawn Solomon was charged and subsequently convicted of bilking the state's MaineCare system out of more than $4 million. The building, along with a dozen other Solomon properties, was put up for auction by TD Bank. Nothing has been done to the building since that time.
A study of Odd Fellows Hall by Resurgence Engineering and Preservation Inc. of Portland several years ago indicated it would cost more than $800,000 to fully renovate it.