LACONIA — Richard Mitchell, the owner of Pitman's Freight Room on New Salem Street, has been ordered to remove the caboose from the state-owned sidetrack adjacent to his property by May 26 and to immediately cease crossing the sidetrack to reach a parking area at the rear of his property.
The Daily Sun was supplied yesterday with a copy of the letter by David Gammon, who owns an adjacent property and has long asked the state to force Mitchell to remove the railroad car.
On April 17 Shelley Winters, administrator of the Bureau of Rail & Transit of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, wrote to Mitchell, reminding him that in July 2004 he was informed that his lease of the sidetrack had expired and directing him to remove the caboose from it. "In researching this issue," Winters noted, "recent observations have revealed that there is no existing agreement in place between you and the state and that you have failed to remove the caboose from the state-owned sidetrack." She described the presence of the caboose as a breach of the original lease as will as "a trespass and a nuisance."
Furthermore, Winters wrote that the DOT was "troubled to learn that the caboose has become a an attractive hazard," this is, patrons of Pitman's Freight Room have been allowed to climb on it, "even while consuming alcohol". She directed Mitchell to "cease any and all activities on state property" and ensure that his patrons did so as well.
Mitchell did not return telephone calls yesterday.
"I was shocked when I saw that letter," said Gammon, who with his sister owns the property abutting Pitman's Freight Room. In fact, their two buildings are attached with the brick wall shared between them serving as the lot line dividing their two properties. The railroad line runs southwest, along Mitchell's lot then, where the two lots meet, the sidetrack runs to the rear of Gammon's lot, ending abruptly at the corner of his property where the caboose has been parked within two feet of his building since 1999.
"I've been pestering the DOT off and on for the past 15 years," said Gammon, who claims that Mitchell placed the caboose "as a grudge to devalue our property." In February, Gammon renewed his efforts, asking both Winters and Attorney General Joseph Foster why, after 11 years without a lease, the caboose had not budged. Gammon also claims the Bureau of Rail and Transit has informed him that there is no record of Mitchell paying the annual fee of $986 to lease the track since his lease expired in 2004.
Mitchell has acknowledged, "I have to do something with the caboose" and now must also make arrangements to secure automobile access to his back parking lot. With her letter, Winters enclosed information about how property owners whose lot is divided by a railway may obtain a "crossing agreement," which can take 60 days or more.