By Doug Ireland email@example.com
---- — SALEM, N.H. — A Martin Avenue family has been given an extra four months to live in a mobile home on their oil-contaminated property as they look for contractors to renovate their house.
But Michael Demers is upset the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment didn’t grant the one-year extension he requested Thursday on behalf of his mother, Suzanne Demers.
“I don’t think the decision was very fair,” he said. “I was hoping the ZBA would have looked into this better.”
The Demerses, who live at 21 Martin Ave., have lived in the 70-foot mobile home for three years after more than 230 gallons of heating oil flooded the basement of their house in February 2007. The home reeks of oil and is uninhabitable, Michael Demers said.
The family claimed an employee from Haffner’s fuel company overfilled their tank. But a jury cleared the Lawrence company of negligence following a weeklong civil trial last fall. Haffner’s claimed the home had a faulty tank and piping.
Before receiving approval to move the mobile home next to their house, the Demerses lived in a hotel for 28 months. A town ordinance only allowed the mobile home for 90 days.
In December, the zoning board granted the Demerses a nine-month extension, which expired a month ago. Michael Demers said they requested another year because it would take nearly that long for contractors to correct the problems on the property.
Now, they only have until March and only a couple of thousands dollars in donations to pay for the work. They hope contractors will donate their time and resources since Suzanne Demers is now $200,000 in debt because of what happened, her son said.
“In the winter, we really can’t do much in there,” Michael Demers said. “The timeline is insufficient.”
He has launched a publicity campaign to help raise the thousands of dollars needed for the work, which includes lifting the house, pouring a new foundation and installing a vapor barrier. The home also has mold and moisture problems following the spill, he said.
“It would bring the value back to our property,” he said. “As it sits now, it’s like a burned piece of wood.”
In 2008, the property was assessed at more than $330,000, but has since dropped to $191,300, according to Vision Appraisal Services. The home is assessed at $55,000.
Michael Demers said they plan to appeal the board’s decision, which was unanimous, according to Chairman Gary Azarian.
Azarian said the board decided 120 days was reasonable and that the family already had enough time to correct the problems.
“The board has been very equitable with the Demerses on the past few petitions,” Azarian said. “After the 120 days is up, that trailer will have to be moved. I sympathize with them, but we are going on two years and the situation hasn’t changed much.”
Azarian said neighbors have been patient, but they may soon start complaining to the town. Michael Demers said he was thankful to have supportive neighbors.
No one other than Demers and his stepfather, Gerald Troisi, spoke before the board during the public hearing Thursday.