More toilets expected in Potsdam as weather breaks, but owner says it's not in retaliation to dispute with neighbor
By CRAIG FRELICH
POTSDAM -- A toilet garden is expected to grow this spring, but the owner says it’s not an attempt to antagonize his neighbors in retaliation for a disagreement.
“It’s art,” said Roger Willmart of River Road, near Norwood in the Town of Potsdam.There is a dispute between Willmart and his neighbor over complaints to police about speeders along the road.
The dispute arose in a public forum after neighbor Mark Bellardini sent a letter to Potsdam Town Supervisor Rollin Beattie in December complaining that a toilet placed across from his land by Willmart was lowering his property value and might inspire him to ask for a lower tax assessment if some resolution could not be reached.
In the letter, Bellardini said Willmart had accused him of requesting a police speed check along the stretch of road with a posted 35 mph limit. The letter also asserted Wilmart’s toilet display was a protest related to that police activity, “a large presence,” along the road about three years ago.
Willmart says Bellardini did complain about speeders, based on what he said the police at the speed check told him, but Willmart says his intent is artistic expression, not retaliation.
Bellardini’s letter indicated that Willmart blamed the increased law enforcement on Bellardini. Meanwhile Willmart said he feared neighbors may have thought he was to blame for the speed traps.
Willmart said troopers told him Bellardini had issued the complaint, but Bellardini disputed that claim in his letter.
Willmart is known locally as the man who organized for years the annual motorcycle runs for the benefit of Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley.
Willmart said disagreement between the neighbors has been simmering over the last few years, with an assortment of disagreements and provocations.
“It’s going to come to a head sooner or later. If you keep boiling water sooner or later it’s going to come over the edge.”
Willmart’s display is similar to the toilet displays Potsdam businessman and property owner Frederick Robar has set up on Market Street and Maple Street to protest decisions by Potsdam officials that denied him zoning clearance to sell the property to a developer who wished to build a donut shop on the Market Street site. The village sued to him to remove the toilets but lost the case when it was determined by the court that forcing him to do so would be a violation of his right to artistic expression.
Willmart said since Bellardini’s letter to the Potsdam Town Council that he added a second toilet to his display, “and I’ve got more waiting for spring.”