Owners of the former Peirce School received a surprising message late in August from a neighbor who said she was responding to a letter purportedly sent by them, which made some incredible claims.

Michelle Lozuaway and husband Josh Lanahan bought the 104-year-old school building as a place to live in October last year and moved into the neighborhood in April. The couple was invited to speak at the Belfast City Council meeting Sept. 1, to address the perplexing situation.

In the message they received from their neighbor, Lozuaway said, “she wanted to assure us that she and her husband were not racist, had not trespassed and certainly wouldn’t harm our animals.”

Lozuaway said she had no idea what the woman was talking about and called her to figure out what she was referring to.

A letter addressed to “Open garden neighbors” was sent to 49 households in the Church Street area. While the letter was unsigned, it was written from the point of view of the  owners of the former school.

The letter claims Lozuaway and Lanahan had been victims of racism and trespass. It also claimed there had been police reports made against them and that the couple poisoned their animals. It goes on to threaten lawsuits and mentions having “blood on hands.”

“We were shocked with the letter," Lozuaway said, "as all the recipients were.”

Lanahan did not mince words, saying, “We did not write it. We had nothing to do with it.”

The letter had unique details, Lozuaway said, that only someone familiar with the neighborhood would know. “It is disturbing,” she said, “if not well-written.”

One outspoken neighbor who talked with The Republican Journal said his cat had met an untimely death at the end of July, and that recently, another cat had perished and been “deposited” on a Church Street neighbor’s porch.

While not certain if any of these incidents were connected, he said the neighborhood atmosphere had become “very unsavory, to say the least,” with everyone “on edge.”

He did not suspect “anyone at all” and felt the city councilors' attitude about the letter at their last meeting was disrespectful — blaming the neighbors for not wanting apartments at the schoolhouse, and now complaining about the lawn.

Councilors' attitude, he said, “is getting tiresome.”

“I don’t intend to shut up,” he said, and added that he pays an “obscene amount of taxes to keep this city running.”

Since the letter went out, the couple have spoken with a number of their neighbors, “having some very nice conversations,” assuring them they did not author such correspondence. “We most assuredly did not write the letter, send the letter and do not feel our neighbors have treated us badly,” Lozuaway said.

Addressing some of the claims found in the letter, she said they did sell their chickens, but only because they did not want to keep chickens at this time — spending the bulk of their summer away from the schoolhouse.

“They were not poisoned,” she said.

She also refuted the claim that law enforcement had been called on them, saying they have had no contact with police other than to report the letter.

Their lawn, however, did get a bit overgrown over the summer, she said, because they had not brought their lawn mower from their former home in New Hampshire. As a result, she said, they have enjoyed the wildflowers and grasses that have come up, attracting beneficial insects, pollinators and birds. She referred to their front yard as “stunning.”

Next year the couple plan to cultivate the yard into a permaculture flat, or edible landscape. “We think all gardens are beautiful and beneficial, be it English, French, wild or orderly,” she said.

In her closing remarks, Lozuaway said she hoped the dissemination of the fake letter did not dampen the “neighborliness” that they had worked to cultivate.

“We have and will strive to be positive members of the Belfast community,” Lozuaway said. “Contributing to, not detracting from, what appears to be an exceptional place to live.”

Councilor Mike Hurley said it is “really unfortunate and sad” that their first experience was so bizarre. “That’s not Belfast,” he said, and welcomed them to the city.

“The people obviously didn’t like the lawn,” he said. The neighborhood did not want to see apartments, he said, and now they do not like the fact that the lawn is not mowed. “Mind your own business,” Hurley quipped, addressing the neighbors.

Councilor Neil Harkness said he has replaced the grass at his house with wildflowers, and invited anyone who wants to write a nasty letter, to “send them in. I’d be happy to see them.”

When searching city ordinances, he said, he found none dealing with yard vegetation. He also congratulated the owners of the Peirce school for bringing a “very un-Camden”-like aspect to the city.

Mayor Eric Sanders said whoever wrote the letter, ”it backfired on them,” because it brought the owners and their neighbors closer together. He thanked the couple for having the courage to speak out publicly about a “stupid” situation that they had nothing to do with.