The owner of commercial buildings in Brewer has sued the city, alleging that it illegally declared two of them dangerous buildings and planned to demolish them.
Bruce Blackmer, 76, of Dedham claims the condemned buildings are not unsafe despite needing repairs, including a new roof on one building. He is seeking a temporary restraining order in Penobscot County Superior Court to prevent the city from tearing the buildings down.
The city claims in court filings that employees have tried to work with Blackmer since 2018 to get him to repair the buildings, but he has not fixed the unsafe conditions. Blackmer alleges that the city has not determined the buildings are structurally unsound and has not offered to compensate him for condemning and seizing them, a violation of the Fifth Amendment.
The condemned buildings are located at 77 South Main St. and 978 Wilson St., also known as Route 1A. A third building owned by Blackmer at 75 South Main St., that is located in front of 77 South Main St., has not been deemed unsafe.
The city has contracts to demolish the buildings at a combined cost of more than $72,000. Brewer has billed Blackmer to recoup those and other costs. The demolitions, set to begin on May 18, were put on hold pending the outcome of the lawsuit, filed on May 16.
The brick buildings on South Main Street were constructed in the late 19th century and are adjacent to Tozier’s Family Market. One of the buildings, 77 South Main St., overlooks the Brewer Riverwalk. Blackmer bought the buildings to store personal property and as an investment in 2000.
He said Thursday that he’s had offers on the buildings, but sales have not gone through. The most recent interest in the South Main Street building came from someone who wants to construct a second floor with a restaurant overlooking the Penobscot River.
“I don’t see the point of putting on a new roof if someone is going to take it off to put in a restaurant,” Blackmer said Thursday.
His attorney, Tim Pease of Bangor, said the city has increased the assessed value of property fivefold over the past few years. It grew from $28,000 in 2020 to $141,300 in 2023, the complaint said.
Assistant City Manager James Smith said Thursday that despite the building’s disrepair, property values and assessments in south Brewer have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Smith also said that the hole in the roof of 77 South Main St. is visible from the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge.
“When the city started dealing with this in 2018, it was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle; now, it’s the size of a bus,” he said.
Blackmer bought the Wilson Street commercial property, constructed in 1959, in 1994. Over the years, it has housed a gift shop, a fence company and a satellite dish distributor, Blackmer said Thursday. It is located next to a fireworks store near the Holden town line.
In March 2018, Blackmer entered into a lease agreement for that property with Nathan Reardon, 45, of Skowhegan and Plymouth, according to court documents filed by Brewer’s attorney, Jonathan Pottle of Bangor. Reardon is serving a 20-month sentence in federal prison for illegally obtaining $60,000 through the Payroll Protection Program. He is due to be released July 22, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
A month after signing the lease in 2018, the city issued a cease-and-desist order for work Reardon started without permits, according to Brewer. Reardon received a demolition permit a few months later, but failed to follow through on his plans. Brewer’s code enforcement office declared that building unsafe in August 2021, four months after Reardon was charged in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Brewer claims that Blackmer should be denied the temporary restraining order because he chose not to appeal the city’s October determination that the buildings were unsafe, but instead filed the lawsuit at “the eleventh hour” as an “end run around the final non-appealable dangerous building decisions and orders.”
Superior Court Justice Ann Murray has not yet scheduled a hearing in the case.