GROTON -- Town officials may have begun to see daylight in a long-running issue with local landowner Lawrence Johnson, who has been working to comply with orders to clean up his debris-strewn property.
Reporting to the Board of Health Monday, Health Agent Ira Grossman said most of the 366 Lost Lake Drive property had been cleaned up; his concentration can now move to a home at the site.
The structure, said Grossman, is "extremely dangerous" and in the opinion of the town's building inspector, unsafe and in need of being torn down.
His recommendation, concluded the health agent, is that the board declare the building condemned.
The Board of Health first ordered Johnson to clean up his property in 2004 and has been working with succeeding health agents to help him do it ever since.
The board had initially responded to complaints by Johnson's neighbors before charging him with a violation of the health code dealing with scattered, disorderly debris on private property that could present a fire hazard or become a haven for animals and vermin.
According to former Health Agent Ben Cutone, Johnson's property had been littered with old cars, wood, metal parts, swimming pool equipment and other items.
Grossman confirmed at a 2012 hearing that the owner had worked to remove the debris but still added that "very little" had been accomplished.
With most of debris gone, the board's attention turned to the home, which Johnson said he planned to demolish and rebuild.
Although Johnson pleaded with the board to help keep his options open by not condemning the house, Grossman insisted otherwise.
"Something has to be done with that structure," he said. "The longer we wait, the worse it gets."
In his defense, Johnson told board members that he expected to have the home demolished and rebuilt before another year was up but that unforeseen circumstances might require him to take more time. For that reason, he asked that the condemnation order not be issued with its implied 12-month deadline.
But seeing as how Johnson claimed to be able to do the work within a year, board Chairman Jason Weber felt condemnation would not place any additional burden on Johnson.
Consequently, board members voted to condemn the building, with Grossman to determine a deadline based on a demolition and construction plan submitted by Johnson.