It’s rare for the violation of a city ordinance to result in a court hearing, and even rarer for it to become a matter of statewide interest and spark debate about everything from government overreach to how we treat our senior citizens.
But that’s just what’s happened in the case of Nancy Edwards, a 74-year-old Orono resident who is facing a misdemeanor charge for renting out her dock.
Edwards says that she was cited by the city earlier this summer after someone complained about her renting out her dock. Soon after, she was issued a registered letter stating that she had violated city code.
Edwards believes that the owner of a local marina turned her in to the city after she spoke with him about dock rental prices.
“In this case, it was the wealthy marina owner and I think he thought I was easy picking, because this guy was the one behind passing this ordinance in 2012,” Edwards says.
Edwards has been renting her dock out for about 15 years, she says, long before the ordinance was changed to prohibit the practice.
“There’s a possibility that, in court, I’ll be grandfathered in, but we don’t know that for sure,” she says.
Edwards is being represented pro bono by attorney Erick Kaardal, who has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. If convicted, she faces up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The court date for the case is Thursday, Oct. 25.
“I’ve never even had a parking ticket,” Edwards says. “I was shocked to get this summons.”
Edwards says that she is dependent on the income from renting her dock; the $3,000 she makes annually from renting it makes up about one-quarter of her income, she says. Edwards is on Social Security and has a reverse mortgage, and she fears that she could lose the small cottage her family has owned on Crystal Bay for 65 years without the rental income.
Edwards says that she sent the City Planner a copy of her rental agreement, which allows for someone renting a room in her home to have access to the dock, an arrangement that is allowed by city code, but that the City Planner claims to never have received it.