A tattered cover hangs off a sign at the former Spring Fountain Motel property on Route 1 in Bucksport on March 14, 2023. The owner of the condemned property has filed a lawsuit against the town in federal court, claiming his rights were violated. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

The owner of a dilapidated motel on Route 1 in Bucksport that was condemned two years ago has filed suit against the town in federal court.

Asad Khaqan is accusing the town and its code enforcement officer of violating his rights in having the former Spring Fountain Motel condemned. Khaqan claims that Luke Chiavelli, the town’s code enforcement officer, presented misleading information to the public and town officials about the motel, and has interfered with Khaqan’s management of the property and with attempts to make needed repairs.

“The false and misleading statements, the discriminatory and disparate treatment, the constant harassment, and intentional interference with contractual relations all of which continue to this day has caused the Plaintiff to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, in revenues and profits,” Khaqan claims in the complaint, which was filed April 7 in federal court in Bangor.

Chiavelli and all members of the elected Town Council are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

Susan Lessard, Bucksport’s town manager, said Friday that the town had not received any formal notification of the lawsuit and declined further comment. It was not clear if the town has an attorney to represent it and other named defendants in the matter.

Khaqan, who lives in New Jersey, is being represented by lawyer Joe Baldacci, who is also a state senator from Bangor.

The town took action in the spring of 2021 to condemn the property, most recently known as the Fountain Inn, for what Chiavelli called “sketchy and dangerous” living conditions.

Chiavelli told told officials at the time that he was concerned about the health and safety of people living at the property, which was being used as long-term housing for its tenants

Chiavell said sinks in the rooms lacked adequate plumbing and drained into buckets, and that many of the smoke detectors did not work. He said many tenants were using portable heaters without automatic safety shutoffs to stay warm, some electrical outlets did not work and others were overloaded, and many rooms had mold and mildew.

The council officially designated the former motel as a “dangerous building” in April 2021. With that designation, the town gave tenants 48 hours to vacate the property and Khaqan 90 days to substantially address the substandard conditions. It has been unoccupied since then.

Khaqan later appealed the town’s decision to Hancock County Superior Court. That appeal is still pending.

Khaqan said in January 2022 that he was hiring workers to fix pipe issues and making progress on the property. Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard confirmed that some contractors had been brought in, but also said that any purchaser of the property would have to comply with the town’s dangerous building order.

The property was listed for sale in April 2022. Although the town and the owner both indicated there was a potential buyer last year, that seems to have fallen through. The property remains for sale with a current asking price of $950,000, according to the property’s real estate listing.

Khaqan claims his civil rights, his equal protection rights, and his due process rights under the U.S. and Maine constitutions have been violated. He also claims the town and its officials have harassed him and have interfered in his contractual relationships that he had with his tenants and has since had with repairmen hired to make improvements to the property.

He also claims Chiavelli made racist comments about his southern Asian ethnicity in front of his brother, who once managed the property, and that Chiavelli once called his brother a “snake charmer.”

Khaqan is seeking unspecified punitive monetary damages against the town.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....