Thursday, September 09, 2010

Homeless park or ...?

Recent events in Skowhegan after a local man was denied the ability to build on his property have the town in a tizzy. The full Morning Sentinel article with photos is available online:
Homeless park draws concern: Land owner Bruce Obert rejects claim he's allowing it out of spite
By Doug Harlow, Staff Writer
August 24, 2010

SKOWHEGAN -- There are a picnic table, a portable toilet and blankets on the ground in woods at the edge of Coburn Avenue, near downtown.
There also is a banner stretched across the trees saying: "Nature Park, Nature Trails for the Homeless People of Somerset County."

On Friday, the site got its first visitor since landowner Bruce Obert, a developer from Norridgewock, laid it out earlier this summer. Obert said he was just trying to give underprivileged people a place to go and in no way was trying to spite the town or the Coburn Avenue neighbors.

Eighty-four-year-old Rod Rodriquez and his Rottweiler have set up camp on the property -- and the neighbors on the otherwise quiet, residential street are unhappy.

No laws have been broken, town officials said Monday. Police Chief Michael Emmons said he takes full responsibility for moving Rodriquez to the site, as he and town officials look for a place for the man to stay.
[Neighbor Pam] Nixon and others said they remember reading about Rodriquez a few years ago when he set up a blanket camp behind Empire Grill, off Water Street in Skowhegan. Rodriquez in September 2006 had a Great Dane with him. Before Skowhegan, he had been in Farmington, Waterville and Madison. Residents complained about his sudden outbursts, and said he often appeared verbally confrontational, according to published reports at the time.
An attempt to interview Rodriquez on Monday while he was having lunch behind the police station was not successful because of the presence of the dog.
Contacted by phone Monday afternoon, Obert said he is not trying to spite the residents of Coburn Avenue or the town.

He said homeless people, such as Rodriquez, can visit the site any time they want, but cannot live there.

"It's a useless piece of land to me," Obert said. "The town told me that I can't build on it because of the set-back rules on a little stream, which doesn't have a name and is dried up at this point now. So I thought I'd make it into a little park and let the unprivileged people get a chance to have a place to sit and use the picnic table and enjoy the fresh outdoors. He should be able to come and go as he pleases."

Read full article with photos here:
In addition, WABI-5 TV has a videoclip up on their site with further coverage:

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