ANDOVER — Local businessman and former Andover municipal officer Brian Mills gave selectmen handouts and rebuttals Tuesday night regarding previous statements made about him at a board meeting that was published in the Sun Journal.

Mills rebutted comments made about him on June 23 by Code Enforcement Officer Robert Folsom Sr. He also said he wants to see changes made in town codes and asked how to start that process.

At the June 23 meeting, Folsom said Mills started an ice cream business without going before the Planning Board for a site plan review and plumbing and occupancy permits. He said Mills was asked more than a year ago to go through the site plan process and get permits.

Additionally, Folsom said Mills first told him that he was a selectman and didn’t need a permit and later told him that the previous code enforcement officer told him he didn’t need permits.

On Tuesday night, Mills objected to Folsom’s statement that he had been more than a year in the process.

“Technically, that’s not true,” Mills said. “If you read the time line, I got the first phone call on July the 8th (2014), which we’re not even near yet. And when I received the letter on (July 27, 2014), I proceeded to get a hold of the septic guy.”

Mills said he didn’t do anything all winter as far as digging, but as soon as March rolled around, “I came up and got all the information I needed.”

He said he probably attended four or five Planning Board meetings.

“So I don’t feel we dragged our feet or tried to avoid the process in any way,” he said.

As to Folsom’s statement that Mills said he felt he didn’t need any permits, Mills said that if he did say it, it was likely at a Planning Board meeting and he was probably being sarcastic at the time.

“If any of you have ever been at a meeting with me, you know I can say some things off the cuff like that,” Mills said. “And I don’t remember saying it, but obviously, Bob thought that I did.”

Mills shared concerns with the board about the July 6 Planning Board meeting regarding the occupancy permit.

“I may be wrong, because we talked about this last night, but I wanted to bring it to your attention,” Mills said.

He said he was on the board when the permit was enacted and told selectmen they and the Planning Board should get a legal interpretation of the definition of “habitation.”

“I don’t think it means ‘any and all businesses in town,'” he said. “I guess I’ll go on the record in disagreeing with that, and the fact that I do need one to go back into that building.”

Mills asked selectmen what the current process is to file a complaint.

Planning Board member Dick Morton said the board has a complaint form.

Selectman Keith Farrington said they have a complaint form, too, should someone want action from selectmen. Complainants must fill out the form themselves and sign it, he said.

Mills said he has been working in good faith with Folsom to get issues resolved and had to hire another septic system contractor, who arrived two weeks late, and that delayed achieving compliance.

Farrington also explained that town officials are not trying to single out business owners such as Mills to force compliance with town laws. They’re just trying to get the process going to enforce the ordinance.

“From being on the Planning Board before, there were many things that were overlooked that never should have been,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Jim Adler said. “You say, ‘Do we just throw everything out and have a big free-for-all?’ Or do we try to get people in compliance?”

Morton said selectmen told the Planning Board to deal with getting businesses into compliance “as we move forward.”

“Then, as things mushroomed, there were some things that we had to deal with that happened in the past, because they were just too big to ignore,” Morton said. “There has been a lot of ‘gray area’ in this ‘catching up,’ because of previous code enforcers maybe not following the rules and providing misinformation or no information, so the Planning Board is faced with a pretty difficult task as to what do we do.”

That’s why the Planning Board has been doing what they were told to do by the Selectmen in order to deal with complaints as they come in, he said.

“If some of them are retroactive, well, so be it — and I think that’s what we tried to do — the best we can,” Morton said. “We haven’t tried to ‘pick’ on anybody, but if it was brought to our attention, we’ve done our best to deal with them.”

Selectmen and Morton said the Planning Board is dealing with matters about many past compliance issues that may still be ongoing.

“We’ve notified these people and we’re working with them,” he said. “It’s very easy to be critics, but they don’t know that we have stuff ongoing or what we’re dealing with for the big picture.

“It’s no secret that we had a code enforcement officer who was all over the map,” Morton said. “Have we made everybody happy? No, but we made a bunch unhappy. But sometimes when you have to follow rules that you don’t feel you have to follow or, per se, didn’t know existed — which applies to a bunch of people — it’s still no excuse. The rules are the rules. We’re doing the best we can.”

Farrington said it didn’t help that the former ordinance was vague. Morton agreed, saying the town’s ordinances need to be tightened.

Mills said he wasn’t implying that the Planning Board and selectmen had singled out certain businesses. However, he said other businesses “are doing the exact same thing that are in almost the exact same location.”

“If you’re going to go back, you can’t ignore certain things,” he said. “They’re not questionable — they’re pretty clear cut.”

Mills said he wouldn’t divulge anything else unless it was in executive session. The board later held that session for a personnel matter.

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