Freeport officials still wary about moving Island Rover

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FREEPORT — The Town Council Tuesday delayed action on whether it will give the Island Rover Foundation permits to move its 113-foot metal schooner.

The town received an application from the foundation for the overlimit movement permits on Oct. 6, which stated that the foundation intends to launch the Island Rover between Nov. 10 and 15. 

The town is required to issue overlimit permits for the movement of loads that are too tall, too heavy, too long or too wide to use roads owned or maintained by the town. Town Manager Peter Joseph said the Island Rover is considered overlimit in at least weight, width, and height.

The foundation applied for three separate permits for three potential launch sites – on Burnett Road, at the L.L. Bean Paddling Center on Marietta Lane, and on Shore Drive – all of which require a different route from the ship’s position on Bucknam Road.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, council Chairwoman Sarah Tracy said L.L. Bean denied permission to use its property as a launch site.

The foundation’s attorney, Twain Braden, said Pittston-based contractor Jewett Builders would move the vessel.

Several town residents asked the council Oct. 17 to use a third party to evaluate whether the proposed method of transportation of the vessel is safe and feasible. 

Before the council considered the foundation’s request, the town asked for additional information regarding launch plans, including approval for removal or trimming of all overhead trees on potential routes, weight and dimensions of the entire removal apparatus, proof of insurance adequate to cover up to $400,000 in potential damage to roads, and written permission from any private land owners whose land may be crossed in transit. 

An Oct. 11 letter from Town Attorney Wendy Paradis asked that all the information be provided by 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, but by Tuesday, Oct. 17, Joseph said the town had only formally received weight confirmation. 

The council had the option to grant conditional permits, contingent on the completion of their requests, but instead chose to table the vote to a meeting that will be scheduled on Oct. 30 – if councilors believe the foundation has provided enough information to make a decision. 

“Much as I would not like to have another meeting, I would table this … based on a history of incomplete information (provided by the foundation),” Vice Chairwoman Melanie Sachs said. 

The permit request came four days before Justice Thomas Warren’s Oct. 10 ruling that the Island Rover Foundation had failed to purge itself of contempt following the court’s June 30 order. 

The town sued the foundation for allegedly violating a 2014 consent agreement reached in Maine Superior Court, which said the Island Rover must be moved off property on Lower Flying Point Road – in the town’s Medium Density Residential zone – where Harold Arndt began building the vessel more than 20 years ago. Building the vessel at this location was allowed until Arndt put the project under the auspices of the nonprofit foundation in 2005.

In August, the vessel was moved about 30 yards from its location on Lower Flying Point Road to private Bucknam Road, adjacent to the property. Both locations are in the same residential zone. 

The foundation’s stance stated in a Sept. 28 memorandum was that the vessel’s location has always been in compliance with permitted uses. 

The memo asserts that “there is quite simply nothing in Town of Freeport Zoning Ordinance that prohibits an owner from building a boat (on) property he or she owns” and goes on to say that the use of the land is an “accessory use,” which is “permitted in every district” in the town’s zoning ordinance. 

But the court found that “by no stretch of the imagination” could construction of an 82-foot steel-hulled vessel be found “customarily incidental or subordinate” to a residential dwelling or private right of way. 

If permits are granted and the foundation meets its Nov. 10-15 window, the court will determine whether it has purged contempt. The town is permitted to apply to take possession of the vessel in order to move or scrap it at any point. However, a public hearing would be required  to consider intervenor Carter Becker’s claim of 75 percent ownership of the vessel.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Freeport Town Councilors said on Oct. 17 that they do not have enough information to grant the Island Rover Foundation a permit needed to move and launch the vessel.