BYRON – Owners of a commercial campground who have publicly accused town officials of trying to regulate them out of business recently filed a multi-count lawsuit against Byron in Oxford County Superior Court in Paris.

A procedural motions hearing to determine how best to conduct the case in court has been tentatively set for Nov. 6, according to court Clerk Donna Howe.

Swift River Park LLC, landowners for Coos Canyon Cabins and Campground LLC, wants to expand the campground from 39 lots to 64 lots, its lawyer, Frank M. Underkuffler said by phone on Thursday in Farmington.

After two years of municipal wrangling, Swift River applied to expand on Feb. 28, 2008. In late August, it filed suit, asking a superior court justice to prevent the town from interfering with or preventing the expansion, and to grant additional relief.

“We’re hoping that the suit will cause the town to rethink its position and negotiate with us to reach some sort of consent agreement,” Underkuffler said. “The town is trying to fix the campground at a certain size and prevent expansion.”

His clients instead want to meet with selectmen and negotiate an agreement that permits expansion.

According to the suit, Swift River principals Roger and Judy Boucher claim that Byron’s code enforcement officer and selectmen, acting together, violated Byron’s building ordinance by failing to approve or deny their June 17 building permit for a pavilion within the allotted 15 days.

The suit additionally claims that selectmen:

• Doing double duty as an appellate body also failed to act on Swift River’s subsequent appeal. Byron doesn’t have an appeals board.

• Directed two anti-campground ordinances at the business to prevent the expansion.

• In so doing, violated Swift River Park’s civil rights without due process and just compensation.

• Violated the park’s federal civil rights “by trying to regulate the business out of existence,” Underkuffler said.

At a board meeting last month, Selectmen Michael Gallant and Corey Freemen declined to comment on the suit. A third selectman has yet to be elected.

Swift River owns and operates the only campground in Byron.

On June 15, 2006, Byron enacted a commercial campground moratorium ordinance to prevent Swift River from further expanding its campground, the suit claims.

On March 12, 2007, town meeting voters defeated an article that would have repealed or set a deadline on the moratorium. By referendum election eight days later, Byron enacted an ordinance that imposed several costly requirements on Swift River’s expansion project, the suit states.

On March 30 this year, planners denied Swift River’s request for a waiver of the ordinance’s site engineering requirements regarding expansions.

Special town meeting voters on May 18 defeated a warrant article that would have deleted the engineering requirements. The next day, during the same meeting, a majority vote adopted a second ordinance, which repealed the first ordinance.

However, that second ordinance banning commercial campground development or expansions, is merely a title, and thereby ineffective in court, Underkuffler said.

Its content was written last month by the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments in Auburn. These proposed changes will be discussed at a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6, in the Coos Canyon Schoolhouse beside the town office.

A special town meeting at the same venue will decide the matter at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16.

“The town is going about this the wrong way. … Teeing off with another ordinance is not the way to do it. That’s a good way to create more legal complexity,” Underkuffler said.


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