This green house sits along the bend in the road where Westbrook’s Main Street curves toward Portland on its way to becoming Brighton Avenue. It’s easy to overlook this faded beauty on your right, cognizant as one must be of traffic merging into this brief one-way section of Main from a spur on your left. But a glance in your rearview mirror as you pass reveals it to be a real eyesore.
The wood siding on its western flank and facade practically begs for a good scrape and a fresh coat of paint. The siding on its eastern flank is gone, stripped to tar paper. The side porch is a patchwork of plywood. There’s an old car under a blue tarp with Maine antique plates last registered in 1984.
The front porch has lost its steps. A thin strip of wood nailed across the front door indicates that entry is forbidden, but a peek inside the front bay window reveals nothing worth taking — just a big pile of ratty insulation. Viewed from the street, you can see that the house is slumping eastward.
Built in 1930, this four-bedroom is the family home of Arlene Briggs. Now in her ’80s, Briggs lives in Woodland Hills, California. She could not be reached for comment before deadline.
Westbrook’s code enforcement office got in touch with her by mail last year. Code enforcement officer Rick Gouzie said Briggs came back to town last summer and began to address some of the problems plaguing this once-proud home. The roof “had a huge hole in it,” Gouzie said, and Briggs told him many antiques inside were ruined by water damage. Briggs hired a roofer who fixed that, and other workers made some headway on the porch and foundation, but winter weather appears to have stalled progress for now.
An old black man with a Caribbean accent lives in a small white house behind this one. He told me he’s been working on the siding and windows, but doesn’t know what Briggs’ long-term plan is for the property. Hopefully spring with make this house greener too.
When dealing with Portland City Hall, you don’t have to be truthful. You just have to be rich.
That’s the lesson of last month’s dump, the house at 227 York St. that real estate broker Tom Landry tried to pretend he didn’t own in order to convince the zoning board of appeals to waive a parking requirement necessary for his friends, Neil and Lauren Reiter, to open a restaurant there.
On Feb. 7, the zoning board unanimously approved the Reiters’ request for the restaurant because the couple had leased three off-street parking spaces from Ron and Christine Spinella, who own a five-unit building nearby. Neil Reiter and Stella Hernandez, the Bar Lola co-owner who’s been helping the Reiters with this project, were present at the meeting, as were several concerned neighborhood activists. Landry was a no-show.
Ron Spinella said he connected with the Reiters after their initial request for a parking waiver was denied. The three spaces he’s leasing them will not be specifically identified for the sole use of restaurant staff or patrons, but they are not spaces available for his tenants’ use, Spinella said.
Ron Spinella has been an active member of the Bayside Neighborhood Association for many years. I asked him if he was bothered by the sleazy way Landry dealt with the West End Neighborhood Association and city officials to try to get this project approved.
“It was just a foolish thing to do,” Spinella said of Landry’s attempt to conceal his ownership interest. “There was really no reason not to reveal that …. What do you gain from it?
“I assume he must feel kind of foolish about it,” continued Spinella, who thinks the restaurant will be good for the neighborhood. “But does it make me worry? No. There are probably landlords in the neighborhood who do worse things we don’t know about.”
— Chris Busby