Casco man conveys tax map issue 2 minutes at a time
By Dawn De Busk
CASCO — A Casco resident, who has owned his waterfront parcel since 2010, has been trying to tell his story to the local selectmen two minutes at a time.
He has made several Freedom of Information Access (FOIA) requests to the Town of Casco, including requests for tax maps of the property from 1965 through the present year. Another request was for a Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) map of the area where the property is located with Casco tax lot boundaries written on that map.
He talked about his FOIA requests again during a Casco Board of Selectmen meeting in December.
According to town officials, the FOIA requests have been honored and those documents have been provided in hard copy or to review for the Casco resident who made the requests. By law, an FOIA request does not mandate that a municipality create new documents or supply documents it does not have.
For the past five months, David Kimball has been using the allotted two minutes of public participation to explain his land situation to the selectmen. He has spoken during public participation at every single selectmen’s meeting since July — about nine meetings total. Typically, Kimball’s participation time ends with a bit of chaos — as he continues to talk while the chairman tells him the two-minute mark has passed.
The property that Kimball owns straddles Meadow Road (Route 121). Part of the land is uphill of Meadow Road, and the other portion is on the waterfront side of Parker Pond.
Kimball purchased the land in 2010 from Darlene Perry, the daughter of Cyrus Leach.
Kimball is seeking the tax maps to prove at one point the land once owned by Cyrus Leach includes the area (about .07 acre) where someone has built a small dwelling.
Earlier this summer, Kimball handed to each selectman 40-plus pages of documents paper clipped together. Most of the information is material that the Casco Town Office provided to Kimball. In the fall, he provided each Casco board member with those same documents, but there was a table of contents added and the documents were in a clear binder.
On Dec. 6, he asked the selectmen to bring the binders back to the January meeting because he wanted them returned.
Most times, Kimball begins his public participation by asking the board if they have the binders containing the documents to which he will refer during his limited time.
Kimball said, “Could we please look at what I brought today?”
He referred to a FOIA “request from May 2016 — for a tax map to support the record of tax liens against Cyrus Leach. Here is a (FOIA) request, asking for who called my mortgage company and adjusted my mortgage payments,” he said.
“I would like to have a map that represents that area. Outline the area on this map. This is the most detailed map that you could possibly get your hands on. If you could outline that map and bring it to next meeting,” he said, referring to the MDOT map.
The selectmen have not said much in response to his situation. It is not that the selectmen are ignoring him. The selectmen do not handle value assessments of land.
This is something that Town Manager Dave Morton and Chairman Holly Hancock have been telling Kimball for months.
“Regarding all matters of assessing, the board has no power,” Morton said on Aug. 8. “The board has no authority. All matters of assessment go through an assessor.”
By law, the board of selectmen cannot assign values or change values to property. If an individual does not agree with the property values that should be addressed by an assessor Morton said.
Twice, Kimball has appeared before the Cumberland County Board of Assessors, in February 2015 and in June 2016. The objective for those hearings before the CCBA was to clarify land values.
On Dec. 6, Morton said, “We have provided 29 or 30 years of tax maps. We didn’t have tax maps prior to the taking of property for Route 121,” he said.
“The other issue is something about his escrow. We don’t contact escrow companies. If somebody calls up and asks for tax info for Mr. Smith, we provide that. The company decides what the escrow is. We don’t have anything to do with that,” he said.
“Issues about who owns what are private property issues that are best worked out with attorneys and surveyors,” Morton said.
It is not the board of selectmen’s role to address private property issues. Therefore, for the past five months, not much dialogue has occurred between Kimball and board members with the exception of the chairman. On Dec. 6, the board did discuss Kimball’s circumstances.
Some of the talk on the topic happened after Kimball’s two minutes when Casco Town Manager explained the status of the FOIA requests. Also, the selectmen had a conversation on how to best help Kimball with his land value concerns. In addition, the board asked what the town has done to assist him so far.
According to Morton, a title search was completed and it showed that the land in question (.07 acres) is not part of Kimball’s parcel.
Most recently, a land surveyor has been engaged — Kimball chose the firm and the Town of Casco will cover the cost up to $1,000 for the survey, Morton said.
“He (Kimball) is a disabled Veteran. He deserves our respect. He deserves our help,” he said. “We have advised him. We did a title search at the town’s expense.”
“It is complicated,” Morton said. “We don’t understand his issue because it changes. His first complaint was that his taxes were too high. His second complaint was his taxes were too low. The third complaint is that the town has somehow taken his property.”
On Dec. 6, right before Kimball was supposed to wrap up his comments, he told the board to bring the binders he had given them to the next meeting. He said he wanted the booklets back “so that copies could go to the Attorney General’s office.”
“This is tax-accrued monies and following it determines ownership,” Kimball said. “There seems to be a problem with the Casco Town Hall and the administration of legal tax identification.”
Chairman Hancock said, “You have exceeded your two minutes.”
Kimball asked again about the FOIA requests, “Do you understand what I am asking?”
Morton replied, “I understand. A Freedom of Information Act request can be for prior or existing documents, but not drawings. By law, the town is not compelled to create new documents.”
At that point, Kimball directed his comments to Morton.
“I am asking you for an honest answer as the Casco town manager and the tax collector,” he said. “It is a simple request David. If you don’t want to answer — that is your style.
The chairman said, “You have well exceeded your time.”