GROTON -- With his performance judged adequate, a local homeowner was given a three-week reprieve from a threat of legal action.
The threat came from the Board of Health, which demanded noticeable progress in cleaning up his junk-filled property.
The good news was given to 366 Lost Lake Drive resident Lawrence Johnson Monday night after board members expressed satisfaction with his latest efforts in complying with their request.
The BOH had first ordered Johnson to clean up his property in 2004 and has been working with succeeding health agents to help him do it ever since.
The board had initially responded to complaints by Johnson's neighbors before charging Johnson with a violation of the health code dealing with scattered, disorderly debris on private property that could present a fire hazard or become a haven for animals and vermin.
According to former health agent Ben Cutone, Johnson's property had been littered with old cars, wood, metal parts, swimming pool equipment, and many other things all scattered about his property in no semblance of order.
Ira Grossman, the board's current health agent, confirmed at a March hearing that the owner had worked to remove the debris but still added that "very little" had been accomplished.
Time and again, Johnson had been given time to comply with the board's wishes and in the past had come up with excuses why he could not meet deadlines. But at a public hearing Monday, he was able to
When asked, Johnson said the second car could not be moved due to mechanical problems but that he did manage to remove the "most offending" of the pair.
Johnson said he would have made even more progress but had "run out of time" but what he accomplished showed "noticeable" improvement.
"Today, we can actually see some bare ground so that's an improvement," conceded board chairman Susan Horowitz.
Still, board members insisted that two more autos on the property needed to disappear by the time they next met with Johnson.
Johnson, however, claimed that one of the cars designated for removal was not only operable, but licensed and insured and so he had a legal right to keep it on the property.
The news came as a surprise to board members who had been under the impression for months that the car was one that everyone agreed had to go. The fact that it was legally licensed never came up.
But with four cars still left on the property, board members considered allowing Johnson to substitute an inoperable one for the licensed vehicle. Such a question as well as what the bylaws had to said about whether a car being licensed and insured could be ordered removed or not were referred to Grossman for research.
Further removal of any of the remaining cars was put on hold until Johnson and the board next met on Aug. 6.
In the meantime, the board did demand to see continued progress on removal of the remaining debris on the property.
Also last Monday night, board members:
? Were informed that George Pergantis, owner of the former Groton, has hired an attorney presumably to combat what he perceives as interference of his plans by the town. Pergantis' special permit application to the Planning Board fell through when confusion arose as to how the restauranteur intended to use the Carriage House on the Inn property: as a restaurant or a function hall. Aside from that question, Horowitz said that all outstanding issues of concern to the BOH resulting from the fire that destroyed the Inn had been settled.
? Continued a public hearing with 11 Cedar Road homeowner Frank Wojtas until Nov. 5 following fall town meeting. The reason for the delay was to see if residents at town meeting would approve construction of a sewer system for the Lost Lake neighborhoods. If such was the case, they would require Wojtas to connect up to the network. If the question did not pass, a decision would have to be made about the best way Wojtas could address a failing septic system on his property.