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Farmhouse tenant stays past deadline

August 25, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Ignoring a deadline to leave, a woman and her family are living in a farmhouse owned by the town of Williamsport, which could send the matter to court.

In an Aug. 8 letter, Town Attorney Edward Kuczynski told Patricia France she must get out by Aug. 20.

"If you do not ... the Town will have no choice but to take any and all action available to it under the Laws of the State of Maryland to remove you from the premises," the letter says.

France still was in the Springfield Lane house with her family this week, saying 10 days' notice is not enough.

She said she expects to move to Emmitsburg, Md. - where she has a post office job - when a house there is ready in September.

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France has lived in Williamsport's farmhouse since 2001. Under a 10-year contract, she would pay no rent if she made improvements on a three-year schedule.

Both sides agree the work isn't finished, but France said she's done most of it.

Kuczynski said Wednesday that the town's next step is filing for a "tenant holding over" hearing in Washington County District Court.

The tenant must prove a good reason for staying despite an order to leave. Otherwise, the tenant is given a short period to move out.

If the tenant doesn't comply, the court could order the Washington County Sheriff's Department to remove the tenant's belongings, Kuczynski said.

On May 5, France gave the town 60 days' notice that she was leaving.

But, seven weeks later, she said she couldn't leave by July 5 and she would let the town know when the house was vacant.

At the July 11 town council meeting, Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones called for the town to evict France instead of waiting for her.

McCleaf said at the end of July that Kuczynski was preparing eviction papers.

However, Kuczynski had not filed anything in court as of Wednesday.

Under the curatorship contract, France agreed to invest at least $50,000 into fixing up the house, according to a 2001 Herald-Mail story.

A memo by a town zoning enforcement officer who inspected the property in April says France completed the first three months' work. The rest of the work either was incomplete or not done at all.

On Tuesday, France rejected the idea that she's been lax with improvements.

She said she's invested at least $52,000 into the house and done about 76 percent of the required work. She said she can't get some projects done because contractors balk at restrictive contract terms imposed by the town.

"We've put a lot of work into this house and if you look at it, it's still a dump," France said.

She said she likes the town, but she'll be happy when she, her 20-year-old son and her 17-year-old daughter can live somewhere more private.

The public frequently walks and drives over the farmhouse property and looks inside, assuming they have free rein, France said.

"It's nothing like we imagined," she said.

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