Freeport hasn't heard from foundation responsible for partially built ship

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FREEPORT — The Island Rover Foundation has not responded to the town’s offer to draft an agreement granting the organization an extension to finish and move a partially constructed ship.

The Town Council on Oct. 18 asked Town Manager Peter Joseph to meet with the foundation and draft an agreement so the 113-foot metal schooner can be finished and moved off a property on Lower Flying Point Road.

Joseph gave the foundation’s board until Dec. 1 to respond, but it did not.

In a Dec. 1 memo to the Town Council, Joseph said he requested a meeting “several times” with the foundation’s board members. He said his intention was to present councilors with an agreement at their Dec. 6 meeting.

The town took possession of the ship, which resident Harold Arndt began building more than 20 years ago, on Sept. 9, after the foundation failed to move the vessel by a court-ordered date. The town and the foundation reached the agreement in Maine Superior Court two years ago.

The foundation on Oct. 4 asked for a another one-year extension and councilors told foundation officials they wanted to see a concrete plan before they would consider an extension. Officials provided a plan to councilors before the Oct. 18 meeting, but left out key information that was requested, such as bank statements and a detailed fundraising plan.

Despite the missing information, councilors said they would consider an agreement if Joseph and the foundation drafted one.

Councilors asked Joseph to include a few conditions, including the caveat that the issue could never come before the Town Council again if the agreement was approved. Councilors said if the date of the extension passed, the town would automatically sell the boat and the property on which it sits. The length of the extension was supposed to be discussed by Joseph and foundation officials.

Another condition requested by the council is mandating that the schooner couldn’t be launched from Shore Drive. The foundation was planning to have a boat launch built in the residential area, which is a half mile from where the boat sits. Building the launch would require extensive site work, including the removal of more than 30 trees.

Joseph said he met with the foundation’s attorney, Paul Bulger, on Nov. 14, and on Nov. 21 the town’s attorney, Phil Saucier, followed up with a letter to Bulger outlining conditions for a potential extension. Then, on Nov. 22, Joseph and Saucier were informed that Bulger no longer represented the foundation.

The town has granted the foundation several extensions in the past, even though the project does not comply with zoning laws. The ship is being built in a residential zone, which was allowed until Arndt put the project under the auspices of the nonprofit foundation in 2005.

In addition to not responding to Joseph’s request for a meeting by Dec. 1, the foundation also failed to sign a bill of sale when the town took possession of the ship. The foundation has also not corrected a clerical error in the deed to the ship that lists the wrong lot reference.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

The creator of the Island Rover, Harold Arndt, stands in front of the partially completed 113-foot schooner in Freeport in 2012.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.