NORWAY – A hearing on the town’s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the owner of the 1894 Opera House will be held in August at Oxford County Superior Court, according to court documents.

A date has not been set yet.

The town filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against owner Barry Mazzaglia, president of Bitim Enterprises in New Hampshire, to force him to immediately stabilize the vacant three-story brick building after the town’s consulting engineer, Alfred Hodson, said he was certain the danger to the public and neighboring property is “very significant.”

Hodson, of Resurgence Engineering and Preservation of Portland, said in his affidavit that “it is not possible to predict whether the entire roof will fall in or, if it does fall in, whether it will further damage the south wall or cause the north wall to fall onto the sidewalk and into Main Street in Norway.”

The building, which is the centerpiece of the downtown National Historic District, was damaged in September 2007 when water pooling on the sagging roof caused a partial collapse of the roof. That led to rotted roof trusses and the bursting of a water pipe on the top floor, sending water down through the floors and flooding two street-level businesses.

The building has been vacant since then, except for Woodsman’s Sporting Goods store, which moved across Main Street to the former Sun Journal building earlier this month.

In March, Mazzaglia asked that the town’s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction be denied because the town falsified its claims that the building is falling down. Mazzaglia claims in court papers that he “saved” the building.

In his answer and counterclaim to the town’s complaint, Mazzaglia claimed the town has been pressured by preservation committees to “harass” him and by a selectman whose purchase offer for what Mazzaglia said was “significantly less than its value” was rejected.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Bill Damon had offered $200,000 to buy the property, which Mazzaglia paid $225,000 for in 2003 after it was placed on the state’s Most Endangered Historic Properties list by Maine Preservation of Portland.

In the complaint, the town wants Mazzaglia to keep the roof free of more than 1 foot of snow, provide adequate bracing to the upper portion of the south wall and take adequate steps to stabilize the structure and the roof so that loads are transferred to the building foundation. It also asks that the owner immediately stabilize the roof with temporary shoring, hire an engineer and construction company to implement the engineer’s shoring system and secure the property.

Mazzaglia said he has maintained the building and stabilized it, as initially agreed upon by the town and himself, as funding and weather permitted.

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.


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