SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The town has been eyeing the purchase of the Carolyn Hook property next to the Manset Town Dock for about 25 years. On Tuesday, the wait came to an end, with voters giving their approval 98-6 to buy the Shore Road lot for $335,000.
The shorefront property has been leased annually by the town for $8,000 and used for parking and as a staging area for maritime interests using the town dock. Town officials have been concerned about the effect the loss of the lot could have if Hook decided not to renew the lease.
That importance to the town was reflected in the turnout at a special town meeting Tuesday at the fire station. The 104 residents casting votes was about 33 more than voted at the annual town meeting in May. The written ballot vote followed a brief discussion.
Lydia Goetze, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, started the discussion with an overview of the history of the town’s use of the lot and how its purchase had long been recommended by the town’s comprehensive plan, the Harbor Committee and the Harbor Planning Committee.
The property consists of two parcels that total .43 acres with an appraised value of $335,000. Money for the purchase is to come from the town’s $1.9 million in undesignated funds.
Michael Young questioned the amount the town had in undesignated funds, saying it “seems excessive to me.”
Goetze replied that it’s town policy to have 20 percent of its property valuation in undesignated funds, 8 percent more than required by the state.
Discussion ended there after a resident moved to call the question. Her motion met with no opposition.
With the announcement of the results, the bay of the fire station echoed with applause from voters.
In August, the town sent a certified letter to Carolyn Hook, who lives in Massachusetts, offering to buy the property at the appraised value and giving her until Sept. 11 to respond, a date chosen in hopes of getting it on the ballot for the Nov. 7 elections. The deadline passed without a response, effectively quashing the plan.
On Wednesday morning, Goetze said she decided to send Hook a letter after getting no response to the offer.
“I wanted to write her a letter that I would want to get if I were in her shoes,” Goetze said.
Her letter detailed the many reasons the property is valuable to the town and its waterfront. Goetze enclosed photographs of the lot and Manset Town Dock in use. Hook didn’t respond.
Goetze said she sent a second letter, offering to talk on the phone or meet with Hook. This time, the response came on Sept. 28 as a purchase and sale agreement signed by Hook.
Goetze said she is elated by the vote and “relieved” that the property is in the hands of the town. The importance of the Hook property extends beyond the town, she said.
“This is one of the lifelines to the outer islands,” she said, explaining that those islands rely on fuel and other materials being barged in from the Manset Town Dock.
While there are no immediate plans for improvements of the property, Goetze said she expects some minor work at the site to make it more usable for vehicles. Down the road, she said, dinghy floats will be added off the Hook property to ease overcrowding at the floats at the dock. Also in the future is the possibility of a new harbormaster office with public restrooms, she said.