Hook property pursued

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Town officials again are actively pursuing the possible purchase of the Hook property, which is seen as key to ensuring the economic health of the town’s working waterfront.

Selectmen, after meeting in executive session Tuesday, approved a motion to authorize Town Manager Don Lagrange to hire an appraiser to assess the value of the property and also to retain the law firm Eaton Peabody to represent the town in the matter.

The .38 acre Hook property is on the Shore Road and abuts the town-owned Manset Pier on the east. The town leases the undeveloped shorefront lot from the Hook family on an annual basis for $8,000 a year. The tenuous nature of the lease agreement has prompted several unsuccessful attempts to contact the owner to discuss buying the property. The town’s comprehensive plan, adopted in 2010, recommends that purchase.

The town’s Harbor Committee also recommended the move. On Tuesday, several members questioned why that recommendation has been ignored until now.

“It’s been sitting there for years with no action being taken,” pointed out Anne Napier.

The town, in August, formed a harbor planning committee. It hired engineer Noel Musson to guide them through preparing a plan for the future of the waterfront. The committee on Jan. 17 voted to recommend to selectmen that they get legal advice on how to “ensure sustained town use of the Hook property.”

Several Harbor Committee members said they felt that their contributions were being ignored in favor of input from the harbor planning committee.

“The Harbor Committee has essentially been pushed aside,” said Nick Madeira.

“Is there an element on the select board that wants to bypass the Harbor Committee, because that’s how we’re feeling,” Corey Pettegrow asked.

Board Chairman Tom Benson and Selectman Dan Norwood assured him that was not the case.

During discussion of the latest proposal, Lagrange proposed hiring an appraiser and then an attorney. He estimated the cost of the appraisal at between $3,000 and $6,000. The attorney would need the appraisal to develop an offer.

According to the town’s property tax records, the owner of the property is Carolyn Hook of Swampscott, Mass. Previous attempts to contact her have gone unanswered.

Referring to the lack of replies, Lagrange said once the new offer is sent “and if they don’t respond, then you’ll have your answer.”

Taking the land by eminent domain was discussed briefly and proved unpopular with selectmen.

“If we go eminent domain, I won’t be part of it,” Benson said.

“Eminent domain is a touchy subject,” said Selectman George Jellison. “I wouldn’t want to do that to anybody’s property.”

Jellison did suggest an alternative. He called for negotiating a long-term lease, perhaps for 25 years.

Selectmen voted to enter executive session to discuss the issue further after Lydia Goetze made a motion to do so, stating that the discussion could adversely affect negotiations.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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