CARTHAGE — A nonprofit organization has challenged this town assumed ownership of property that could be a site to extend a proposed wind farm.
Friends of Maine's Mountains, which has a Main Street, Wilton, address, has apparently been deeded about 320 acres located on Saddleback Mountain ridge from an heir of the last known owner.
The land ownership claim is by the Warwick Potter Residuary Trust of 1974, whose trustee is William A. Potter of Acton, Mass. According to a quit-claim deed signed by William Potter on July 27, 2010, the rights and title of the property were turned over to Friends of Maine's Mountains. No financial compensation is listed on the document. Potter could not be reached for comment.
Until a few weeks ago, there was no known heir of Carolyn Weld, who was the last person to own the property in 1843. The property has been known as the town lots for at least a century, said First Selectman Steve Brown. Property taxes have never been paid on the land, he said.
The apparent heir came forward when the town had begun to work toward a declaratory judgment to receive legal ownership of the property a few months ago so that the land could become a part of a tentatively proposed industrial wind project.
Jennifer Kreckel, lawyer for the town, said she is preparing an answer to the suit filed on July 29 by Friends of Maine's Mountains lawyer, David Sanders of Livermore Falls.
The suit claims that because an heir to Weld has been located, the so-called town lots are not owned by the town.
The suit further asks for court costs in the case.
Sanders could not be reached for comment.
Kreckel said of the Friends group, “They are trying to enter the case by taking a party who may or may not have rights to the property. The town is going to vigorously defend its rights to the property because they've been claiming ownership for over 100 years.”
Brown said the property is listed on town maps and books as town property.
“We're waiting for the title to be cleared. Friends of Maine's Mountains is delaying the process,” he said.
Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., has proposed building about 13 turbines on several hundred adjacent acres that are privately owned, and another four turbines on the land in dispute.
Brown has said that if turbines are built on the 320 acres now in dispute, the town would reap royalties from Patriot Renewables.
“We want this project to happen in the best interest of the town, to see what kind of an agreement we could get from Patriot. It would expand our tax base, we'd receive royalties, and there would be a chance to keep a substantial amount of land open,” he said.
Friends of Maine's Mountains was incorporated as a nonprofit late last year.
A spokesperson for the group could not be located.