NORWAY – The town’s effort to force Opera House owner Barry Mazzaglia to stabilize the three-story Opera House has been delayed because its attorney has stepped down due to a possible conflict of interest, Town Manager David Holt said.

In an e-mail to selectmen Thursday night, the town manager said Geoff Hole removed himself from the process because another member of the Bernstein Shur law firm of Portland, where he works, is involved in a separate case with Mazzaglia. The details of that case were not available. Hole stepped aside in favor of attorney James Belleau of the firm of Skelton, Taintor and Abbott of Auburn.

Holt said Friday that filing the paperwork in Oxford County Superior Court in Paris for an injunction is being delayed while he reviews recommendations by Belleau about how to proceed with the case. The recommendations are slightly different than Hole’s, he said.

“It’s a new way of looking at it,” Holt said, but it does not affect the board’s vote on Jan. 13 to take the action against the New Hampshire-based Realtor.

“That’s what they voted, that’s what they’ll do,” Holt said referring to implementation of their vote.

Meanwhile, Holt said he has been taking other steps, such as researching the deed and making sure everyone who must be notified in the court filing is notified, while officials prepare for the filing.

Holt said Mazzaglia was also contacted last week about shoveling the Opera House roof following the major snowstorm Wednesday.

“We’re concerned about the rain forecast,” he said of Tuesday’s forecast for heavy rain that will place an additional burden on roof that already have more than a foot of snow on it.

“We’ve asked him to shovel it,” he said.

The building, which is considered the centerpiece of the downtown National Historic District, was damaged in September of 2007 when water pooling on the sagging roof caused it to partially collapse and sent water cascading down to first floor. Two businesses there were forced to move out.

The building has been vacant since then, except for Woodsman’s sporting goods shop, which is preparing to move across Main Street to the building formerly owned by the Sun Journal.

The Opera House was built by the Norway Building Association, then owned by the town from 1920 to the mid-1970s, and then by a succession of private owners for the past 30 years or so. The ballroom and balcony on the upper floors played host to the community life of Norway, including concerts, balls, traveling minstrel shows, theater performances, National Guard musters, town meetings and high school graduation ceremonies. The top stories have been unused since a movie theater closed in the 1970s, and the five ground-floor storefronts have had occupants off and on over the years.

Mazzaglia bought the Opera House for $225,000 in 2003 after it was placed on the state’s Most Endangered Historic Properties list by Maine Preservation of Portland.


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