December 26, 2013

Augusta man upset with Dunkin’ Donuts decision gets more toilets

David Labbe has put up a fence between his home and his 28 commodes, not as many as he initially wanted.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The toilets behind David Labbe’s home on the city’s east side were snow-filled last week, icicles hanging from their tanks.

click image to enlarge

SAFE AND SOUND: David Labbe has increased the number of toilets on the lawn of his Augusta home to 28 after the city’s October decision to reject a zoning change that would have allowed a Dunkin’ Donuts developer to build a restaurant and buy Labbe’s home.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Mad over Augusta officials’ decision to reject a zoning change that would have enabled a Dunkin’ Donuts developer to buy his 1 Davenport St. property, Labbe, a plumber, got national headlines earlier this year by putting commodes behind his home to protest his neighbors’ opposition to the plan.

The Kennebec Journal broke his story in October: Then, Labbe had a sign alongside five toilets saying he wanted between 60 and 70 more.

In an interview then, he told a reporter he thought he could put 100 toilets on a strip of land behind his home, which he would eventually back with a fence that would shield the toilets from view while inside his home, leaving them visible along Crooker Street.

Near year’s end, Labbe has fulfilled only part of his vision.

He built the fence, but he’s thin on toilets and says he isn’t seeking more for now. On Monday morning, he had 28 toilets out there, taking up the majority of space behind an unpainted wooden fence.

Labbe said in October that he doesn’t like living in his neighborhood. Because registered sex offenders live around him, he said his kids, ages 10 and 13, aren’t allowed to play outside unsupervised.

He added that his plumbing work has dipped in the past few years in the down economy. He said he has never completely sided the home because he can’t afford to and property taxes in Augusta are too high.

That’s why he said the offer made on his home by the Dunkin’ Donuts developer, Massachusetts-based Cafua Management Co., was so attractive. He said the company offered him three times what he paid for the property, but wouldn’t disclose the price. However, city records show he and his wife bought it in 1999 for $62,000.

But the deal was scuttled in October, when the Augusta City Council unanimously voted to reject the zoning change Cafua would have needed to build the restaurant. They would also have acquired the vacant ex-service station building between Labbe’s house and Stone Street to build a drive-thru Dunkin’ Donuts.

Neighbors came to city meetings in full force to oppose the change, saying it would have pushed back a residential neighborhood inappropriately. When the Kennebec Journal canvassed the neighborhood by phone and foot in October, all neighbors opposed the plan and called Labbe’s response juvenile.

In October, Labbe said he thought the city rejected the plan so swiftly because the mayor, William Stokes, and William Bridgeo, the city manager, both live on nearby Fairview Avenue. Stokes rejected that assertion, saying nobody in the neighborhood but Labbe wanted it.

While Labbe didn’t get any help before the city council, he said many people agreed with him.

The way he accumulated the toilets is simple: “People started dropping them off,” he said in a recent interview.

“Everyone around town said the same thing: If the mayor and city manager weren’t living in the neighborhood, it would have gone through.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652mshepherd@centralmaine.comTwitter: @mikeshepherdme
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