Man paints irate message on his roof Westminster landlord has long-running feud with city government

'Free speech-type deal'

Resident alleges favors given owner of offices next door

April 18, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

A Westminster landlord has topped off his long feud with city government by spray-painting "West. Govt. Unfair" in neon orange on the roof of his East Main Street building.

David H. Fairbank painted the same sentiments this week in black letters on an old refrigerator on the second-floor deck at the rear of his building and on a door leading to second-floor apartments in his building at 27 E. Main St.

Mr. Fairbank charges that Westminster officials have thwarted his plan to enclose the deck for offices, reneged on a 16-year-old verbal promise to pay for an extension of a water line to his building, and given special favors to David Max, who owns the adjacent Winchester Exchange office building at 15 E. Main St.

But city officials say that they were ready to approve Mr. Fairbank's building permit and allow the deck enclosure in 1992, that they need some corroboration of the promise to pay for the water line and that any favors extended to Mr. Max are similar to those provided for other business owners.

Mr. Fairbank said he put up the pro-test signs because "the city should sit down and negotiate with me fairly and squarely. I'm just trying to let people know that there's a lot of favoritism and partiality."

Councilwoman Suzanne P. Albert, who chairs the public improvements committee that met with Mr. Fairbank several months ago, reacted to the signs with "surprise and disappointment, because I feel like I'm there for him."

Thomas B. Beyard, city public works director, said the signs don't violate city ordinances. "It's not really advertising a product. It's kind of a free speech-type deal," he said.

Mr. Fairbank's building receives water through the Winchester Exchange. To qualify for a permit to enclose the deck, he needs a written pledge from Mr. Max to provide water for fire protection.

"Requiring someone to certify that their fire protection system has adequate water supplies, that's black and white in the fire prevention code," said Scott Campbell, county fire protection engineer. The county administers building permits for Westminster.

Mr. Fairbank said he can't reach an agreement with Mr. Max. "I would feel better if I had my own sprinkler," he said. "He wouldn't let me do that."

Mr. Max refused to comment.

Over the years, the dispute occasionally has appeared almost comical. Three months ago, for instance, Mr. Fairbank said he ripped out a square of brick sidewalk pavers at the rear ramp entrance to the Winchester Exchange building because city officials told him he couldn't park his van on a sidewalk.

"I tore it out, and now it's not a sidewalk. It's a mudhole," he said. "It looks [bad], but who's making me do that? They are."

Mr. Fairbank now parks frequently in the mud spot.

Mr. Bayard has a different version of the incident. He said Mr. Fairbank's van blocked another car that was parked at the Winchester Exchange ramp. The owner of the car called police, and Mr. Fairbank received a warning ticket against blocking other cars.

For Mr. Fairbank, a trash bin symbolizes his frustration with city officials who he says refuse to treat him fairly.

Until six months ago, the two building owners shared the container. It was on Mr. Fairbank's property. Mr. Max paid for it. When Mr. Max was allowed to move the trash bin to the west side of the Winchester Exchange to the Albion parking lot, which he leases from the city, Mr. Fairbank saw the action as blatant favoritism.

Mr. Beyard said that the city re- striped the parking lot so Mr.

Max could place the trash bin without losing any parking spaces but has extended similar favors to other landlords.

Pub Date: 4/18/96

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