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January 26, 2013

Struggle over illegal multi-unit homes


Since then, Gaudet’s fought the town’s order to convert the building back to a single-family home, losing one court case already in Newburyport Superior Court.

“Mr. Gaudet tried to use the assessors’ property records for his property in his defense, but was denied by the judge,” Harrington said.

According to the August 2011 ruling handed down by Newburyport Superior Court Justice Richard E. Welch III, Gaudet was ordered to bring his property “into compliance with the Zoning Bylaws by immediately ceasing all use of the building thereon as a two-family dwelling and restoring it to single-family residential use ... .”

He was ordered to evict anyone living in the the second dwelling, allow town inspections on 24-hour notice to ensure compliance, provide the court with progress reports, cease any use of the property not permitted by town zoning and reimburse the town for attorney’s fees and costs it expended in the case.

Harrington said Gaudet hasn’t yet been paid the town’s legal expenses, which amount to about $10,000. And according to Lovering’s knowledge, no action has been taken to comply with any of the other aspects of Welch’s ruling, since Gaudet has appealed the case, taking it to Lawrence Housing Court.

Gaudet also believes since other multi-families in his area were grandfathered, his property should be as well. But the notion of the 28 Mudnock Road property being grandfathered doesn’t fly, Harrington said, for it was illegally converted about a decade after zoning was passed in 1978.

Harrington said neighbors complained for years about the non-conforming use of the structure, but code enforcement officers during that period didn’t follow up.

“But that doesn’t happen any more,” Harrington said. “Today, our building inspector enforces the town’s zoning.”

When the bank foreclosed and took the property a few years back, an abutter alerted Lovering, Harrington said. To try to avoid the very problem Gaudet is facing now, Lovering wrote to the mortgage holder, DLJ Mortgage Capital of Salt Lake City, Utah, to let the company know that the 28 Mudnock Road “may contain an illegal dwelling unit.”

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