Disagreement could sink new pier at Pine Point in Scarborough

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SCARBOROUGH — Construction of a new commercial pier at Pine Point may be dead in the water if an agreement between the town and the Pine Point Fisherman’s Co-op cannot be forged in time to meet funding deadlines.

The new structure would be built next to the aging pier now utilized by fisherman. It would allow fishermen to drive trucks out to the end for loading and unloading, and would include hydraulic hoists to help lobstermen bring in their catch.

The new pier, which has been in the works for more than two years, would require the Pine Point Fisherman’s Co-op to grant the town an easement for access, because its base would be on the co-op’s land.

“They have been resistant and it’s been difficult to get to that point,” said Town Manager Tom Hall, who has been working with the co-op and its lawyer on the terms of the easement.

When the town began looking into the arrangement, it discovered the co-op, which has been a fixture in Scarborough since the early 1960s and operates the Rising Tide restaurant at the pier, did not have deeded access to King Street.

“This renders their property landlocked. It’s a major problem for them if they ever want to sell the property,” Hall said.

The town also discovered the co-op was in violation of a requirement that restaurants have 25 parking spaces, and that both the town and the co-op had been honoring an agreement approved for only one year in 1991 to allow co-op visitors to utilize a nearby town-owned parking lot.

So, Hall said, the town proposed swapping an easement for the pier in exchange for a lease of 25 parking spaces in the town lot and an easement for deeded access to King Street.

“(The co-op) had something we need, we have something they need,” he said. “It made sense.”

But Hall said he did not receive a positive response from the co-op or its lawyers. Instead, a negotiating process began that has lasted nearly eight months.

“They talked about not giving us access to our business if we didn’t grant them an easement,” said co-op owner Gary Johnson, adding that he and the other co-op members felt pressured by the town.

On Aug. 30, the co-op made a counter-offer, including a provision that would return ownership of the pier to the co-op if the town fails to maintain the structure.

“I don’t think the state would be very happy about that, since we’d be using state funds for the pier,” Hall said.

The co-op also wanted the town to create designated parking spaces only for the restaurant in the town’s parking lot, and wants to eliminate standard default and termination provisions in the parking lot lease.

“We definitely want the pier to go in,” Johnson  said, “but we’re in a vulnerable position here. It’s not like we’re negotiating with another business owner. We’re not on equal ground. They have a completely different set of rules.”

During Wednesday night’s Town Council meeting, Hall said the town attorney has briefly reviewed the co-op’s suggested changes and does not advise the town to honor them.

In the meantime, deadlines are looming for up to $252,000 from Land for Maine’s Future and an additional $100,000 from the state Department of Transportation Small Harbor Improvement Program, which would fund half of the project’s total costs. State and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits will expire this fall.

Because of the time issue, Hall sent the documents to the council so it could vote Wednesday evening to allow him to sign the easement and lease deal that were drafted before Hall received the proposed changes from the co-op’s attorney.

The council voted unanimously to give Hall permission to sign the documents as they are currently written. If the co-op wants to continue to negotiate for some of the amendments it suggested, Hall would have to have those amendments approved by the council at its next meeting, which is the last meeting before the state funds would be lost.

“This has become a huge, huge headache for town staff,” Hall said. “And in the meantime, the fishermen are dealing with antiquated equipment.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

Sidebar Elements

A fisherman walks along the pier that juts out from the Pine Point Fishermen’s Co-op as diners enjoy dinner at the Rising Tide restaurant, which is owned by the co-op. The pier is slated for replacement if a deal between the co-op and the town can be reached in time to meet state funding guidelines.