The Town of Cape Elizabeth’s lawsuit against the Lumbery — a business located in the center of town on Route 77 that sells locally-sourced wood, garden beds, and tools — may soon be coming to an end after nearly a year.
This coming Monday, the Cape Elizabeth Town Council will be considering a motion to pursue a voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit, which was filed against the Lumbery last October.
Councilor Tim Reiniger requested that the motion to dismiss be placed on the upcoming meeting’s agenda — as well as consideration of scheduling a workshop to review the town’s existing policies and ordinances relating to small businesses and to discuss specific steps that can be taken to improve them.
In October of last year, the Town of Cape Elizabeth sued the Lumbery and its owner — Mike Friedland — over accusations of zoning and sign ordinance violations.
Although the town has said it’s merely enforcing ordinances, many residents have viewed the lawsuit as contributing to Cape Elizabeth’s hostile business climate.
The store’s approved site plan allows for “minimal outside storage of materials,” but the Lumbery was nonetheless sued for “storing several pallets of firewood, picnic tables, stacks of lumber, and other items in the front” of the store.
The Lumbery was also sued by the Town on account of “placing a sign in the front of” the store “without submitting the information necessary for a complete sign permit application.”
Once word of the lawsuit began to spread through the town, residents circulated a petition asking the Town Council stop pursuing legal action against the Friedland and his business.
The petition eventually garnered roughly 1,200 signatures — which represents more than 12% of the town’s population.
Shortly after this, twenty residents turned out for a nearly four hour Town Council meeting where they offered more than an hour’s worth of public comment in support of Friedland and the Lumbery, urging the councilors to drop the suit.
After a roughly forty-minute executive session, which is not open to the public or media, the councilors returned to announce that they would direct the town attorney to pursue a “consent decree” — which is essentially a court-approved settlement agreement.
Several weeks later, the Town Council held another meeting wherein public comment was accepted regarding the Lumbery lawsuit.
Although the turnout was not as significant as at the first Council meeting, the support for the Lumbery and Friedland was no less clear. Residents who offered comment at the meeting implored councilors to “just please drop the lawsuit” against the business and its owner.
No further action was taken by the councilors during that meeting.
This Monday, however, this may change.
Reiniger’s request was granted to put a motion to voluntary dismiss the lawsuit on the agenda, and the Council will be considering it on Monday, September 11 at 7pm.
As has been the case at prior meetings, public comment will be accepted on the matter for a 15-minute period.
The Town Council will also be considering the possibility of scheduling a workshop to discuss actionable steps that can be taken to better attract and retain small businesses in the town.
The town’s lack of a business-friendly environment has been a central theme in the ongoing conversation about the Lumbery lawsuit, with many residents urging the Town Council to make some serious changes.
The Town Council meeting will be held on September 11 at 7pm in the Cape Elizabeth Town Hall and can also be access online via the Zoom link included at the top of the agenda.
Click here to see the agenda for the Town Council meeting. To read more about the issues discussed in this article, see items #9 and #15 on the agenda.