Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 20, 2014
Dorothy Leighton shares perspectives, continues to fight to stay in house
Dorothy Leighton of Blue Hill, Maine is not giving up hope that she can find a way to stay in her family home on Mill Pond Lane.
by Faith DeAmbrose
When does an ordinary person’s life get extraordinary coverage? That is the question that Dorothy Leighton of Blue Hill contemplates as she opens up her house March 17 to The Weekly Packet for an interview.
“I feel that I have to disagree with the way I am being talked about,” said Leighton, referring to ongoing news coverage about her situation. While she readily admits that she has not paid her taxes in more than two decades—and that that decision has landed her both in court and in the media spotlight—she disagrees with the contention that her home is unlivable, as has been previously reported in this newspaper.
Leighton does not really speak about the more than $30,000 in back taxes and fees owed to the town of Blue Hill, but instead focuses on taking steps toward improving her life and the house she refuses to leave. She also does not really speak about the writ of eviction granted to the town of Blue Hill in 2010. That writ gives the town the ability to remove her from the home, although that task would actually be performed by the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
Leighton, who prefers to be a private person, has been thrust into the public sphere over a long-standing eviction matter. Beginning in 2009, Leighton and the town went to court three times to appeal lower court decisions, but ultimately the state’s highest court found for the town. Still, it has been many years since the last court date and Leighton remains in the house.
When asked what would happen to Leighton if she were evicted, she says simply: “If it happened today, I am not sure what I would do. I guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it.”
In the meantime, the focus, for her, is to make the changes necessary to fully integrate in society. Past traumas, some stemming from her childhood, went long unaddressed, said Leighton, and only recently has she been able to deal with them.
“I have to change, I know that,” she said, adding, “but, I have been taking care of myself and I know now that I have to move forward—and I have to do it for me.”
She said her pain is real even if others don’t agree. “Just because you can’t see what I have, people think I fake it,” she said, referring to a mixture of agoraphobia, social anxiety and mild seasonal depression disorder.
Leighton, who will turn 66 on the March 22, says she is moving forward and “not sliding back,” while acknowledging that for years one step forward has sometimes resulted in two steps back.
“I did not set out for life to be this way,” she said. “And while it is still not where I would like it to be, I am further ahead than I ever was before.”
In February, a friend helped Leighton restore one room of her house. A refinished floor, light green pastel paint on the walls, new furniture and matching bedding round out the new space. She has high hopes for the other rooms of her house, but says she can’t plan to address them until she knows she can stay.
A December storm and a prolonged power outage did cause some damage to the house, said Leighton, but she disputes some of the information circulating in public. For instance, Leighton does have running water in the kitchen. She does not have any in an upstairs bathroom but is making due for the time being by carrying water to the second floor to flush the toilet.
Leighton is in the process of applying for Section 8 housing status (to be used to subsidize the Mill Pond Lane house) and is actively seeking a “humanitarian investor” who would purchase the property and allow her life tenancy. (She further outlines her concept in an op-ed piece published in this paper on page 7).
“I feel safe in this house and I don’t want to go anywhere else,” she says.