FARMINGTON — Two articles pertaining to a Front Street parking lot lease will appear on the annual town meeting warrant. Selectmen decided to follow the advice of town counsel and, with a vote of four yes and one abstention Tuesday, left both articles for voters to decide.

The first article initiated by selectmen in December asks voters to consider the town’s withdrawal from the 99-year lease on the lot next to the Better Living Center. That lease requires an annual $1 payment and maintenance of the lot.

A citizen petition, started in response to the board’s decision, requires the addition of an article directing selectmen to negotiate on the lease with owner Greg Roux.

Roux appeared before the board a year ago seeking termination of the lease. He questions its validity. At a special town meeting held last spring, voters rejected an after-the-fact ratification of the lease.

“We’ve grappled with what to do since,” Selectman Jon Bubier said, although he has excused himself from executive sessions dealing with it because of his own business interests located nearby.

The University of Maine at Farmington, a third party in the lease with the same terms as the town except maintenance, recently indicated that they will not accept the town’s withdrawal.

Roux said no one from the university has spoken with him. He feels their statements on the need to keep access to their soccer fields located beyond the lot are moot because they have a right of way to them, he said.

Some Front Street business owners said they consider the board’s decision a 180-degree turnaround from previous intentions to maintain the lease.

In response, board members indicated they have additional information that affected their decision, but that counsel has advised them not to disclose it.

Town Manager Richard Davis said that while he thinks town business should be public, people could be harmed if the details are revealed. The issue involves personal property rights, he said.

Selectman Andrew Hufnagel then asked Roux what he wanted.

Roux appeared to want both articles added and to let voters decide if they want to spend tax dollars on parking.

He voiced concerns about the petition article because it has “no teeth.” The petition does not indicate an amount but just directs selectmen to negotiate.

“We’ve been negotiating for a year,” he said, asking what happens if  more negotiations still don’t resolve the issue.

Potential court action to determine the lease validity would be the next step, but Roux indicated he preferred not to pursue that course. If voters approve the town’s withdrawal, it would eliminate legal fees to see if the lease is valid, he said.

If the university doesn’t agree, let them fight it, he added.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.