“My focus is on building my project, not the lawsuit, since my attorneys have assured me it has almost no chance of impacting the project,” wrote Josh Wojcik, in an email to this blogger on January 1, 2021 morning. “…I’m not blocking anyone’s access to anything,” the verbose Wojcik wrote in one of a series of lengthy emails defending himself and Upright Properties, LLC in multiple lawsuits against his 128R North Street condominium that he said recently is a year away from completion.
Until recently, there was a home on that location rented to Diane Russell and other tenants. The property was allowed to deteriorate into a condition making it ripe for demolition. The massive six unit rear condominium is on that foundation. It is a rear location with no street frontage and no vehicular access to it. Wojcik has tried to sneak around that.
However, members of the Munjoy Heights Condominium Association see it differently from Wojcik: “The issue for MHCA is the need to preserve its right and access to a 10-ft. easement in the rear of the 128R property. This easement was granted so that, if the 18-ft. high retaining wall behind the 128R property (owned by MHCA) needs repair, MHCA will be able to bring heavy equipment on that easement to make repairs. The 10-ft. easement is on a steep slope, so no heavy equipment would realistically ever be able to access that space and the massive structure that Josh is building would significantly impede access to the easement (Notably, the initial grant of an easement to MHCA was 20 feet wide, which was approved by the Planning Board. In the context of the original transfer of the 128 property to Josh from the Munjoy Heights Condominium developer sometime around 2014, a last minute change from a 20 ft. easement to a 10-ft. easement was never approved by the Planning Board,” according to Ann Casady, a resident of neighboring Munjoy Heights.
In December, the Munjoy Heights Condominium Association filed a court Complaint against Upright Properties seeking relief. “Upright’s interference includes planning to build the project that is the subject of the Rule 80B Appeal, erecting a fence and telling the Association that they are trespassing and have no right to access the Upright property,” according to the Complaint filed by attorneys at Jensen Baird.
In October of 2020 prominent real estate attorney Thomas Federle filed an 80B Appeal on behalf of North Street neighbors Lindsay and Susan Mann against the City of Portland and Upright. The Appeal asks that the Portland Planning Board approval on September 8, 2020 of the massive condominium be “vacated” or reversed. The Appeal says that the Planning Board made an erroneous decision for numerous reasons. Most prominently among them is the “Maintenance Easement” referred to above; the Munjoy Heights Condo Association says blocks its ability to move heavy equipment into the area for the maintenance of its retaining wall. The Planning Board’s approval is additionally erroneous by Wojcik’s failure to demonstrate financial capacity for the construction of the condominium as well.
Plans call for the demolition of 126 North Street. It currently contains four rental units which the city of Portland can hardly afford to lose.
Lastly, a puff piece extolling the virtues of the condominium, but none of the legal issues associated with it, is being used as a sales tool by Upright. Last fall, a puff piece written by Wojcik was printed in the monthly “West End News” as submitted – no questions asked by the editor. Thirty (30) neighbors of the North Street fiasco protested the development in the December 2020 issue in a Letter to the Editor. The Letter refuted the developer’s claim this is “affordable” housing as he asserts in the puff piece. Rather, it’s a four story, six unit high-end controversy that is “squeezed into a small backyard lot next door to a historic home.” WEN editor Tony Zeli emailed mhn.com that he knew nothing of the legal issues of the project. He did not talk to Wojcik about the press release before printing it last fall. That unedited puff piece is now being used by Wojcik as a cheaply produced sales tool for the public – incomplete as it is.
Mhn.com emailed the Director of the Portland Planning office for a comment earlier this week, but has received no response to that communication.