Town ownership of land challenged

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.

eadams@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

short term dollar

and that quick buck goes away when the receptors of the turbines bring lawsuits against the town

 's picture

To some

protecting a wild mountain like Saddleback is worth it.

 's picture

Best Interest

The Best Interest of the Town of Carthage and all towns is for their Selectmen and town council members to act wisely and with deliberation. The Best Interest of all towns is for these officials to tell the wind developers that in order to cross the threshold of town office to speak to them the following conditions apply: that all meetings will be public and that the citizens will be totally informed and provided equal time and equal access to the decision making. In far too many towns, there are years of unscrupulous behind the scenes meetings as wind developers lure in the town officials. Decisions get set in stone and processes for approval facilitated far before the citizens know what is going on. It is the "play book" of the wind developers.
This is not a modest manufacturing plant in a designated business park or even a Wal Mart. This is a total change in the natural resources and ambiance of the community. These are huge industrial machines sprawled across blasted away and clearcut ridgelines. Wind development is something that most communities have never considered in zoning and the industrialization of the mountains is unacceptable. Even more unacceptable is the town officials who help the developer ruin the town instead of protecting its citizens. Shame on Steve Brown for being in Patriot's pocket.

 's picture

"Best Interest of the Town"

What is, really, in the 'best interest of the town'. Does it always come down to a quick buck? Is that what determines what is best for a town... or for an organization, or for a family or individual? If 'tangible benefits' and short-term lease payments and a temporary reduction in taxes were all removed from the equation, what, then, would be in the 'best interests of the town'?

Would it be best for the town to have hundreds of thousands yards of bedrock and earth blasted and relocated on the beautiful ridges above their homes? Would the high, low and ultra-low frequency noise produced by turbines be unnacceptable to the townsfolk and their neighbors, then? Remember, acoustical engineers are beginning to tell us that people living within 2 miles of turbines can suffer adverse health affects. And less cautious experts are advocating for setbacks of up to five miles in mountainous regions and up to twenty miles when turbines rise above open water. If money wasn't involved, would we be more likely to defend our friends and neighbors from the negative health affects of turbines? Would we care more about them, then?

If the monetary benefits were removed, would we be concerned about the miles of new roads which will fragment wildlife habitat and disrupt animals' hunting and foraging trails? Would we be outraged at the bird and bat deaths which will occur, instead of shrugging the fact off with inane coments about how house cats and automobiles are just as apt to kill them??

And what about economics? If the town was not going to receive those tangible benefits, temporary lease payments and short term tax reductions, would we be more likely to require that wind turbines be self-supporting and produce affordable electricity before they could erect their massive machines? Would we question the economics of a generation system which, at BEST, produces 35% of its rated capacity, but more often produces between 10-25%? Would we welcome a power plant whose product is up to four times more expensive an already-established renewable hydro source in Canada? Would we encourage development of an industry which we knew had a life-span of only 20 years? And which would be expensive and time-consuming to remove when its useful life was over? Would we allow them to be built, knowing that the money for decommissioning them had not been set aside at the outset, and understanding that it could very well fall to the tax-payers to foot those future bills?

Would it be best for the town's economy to lose open land for hunting, hiking, bird-watching, and the like to hillsides and ridgelines which will be posted against trespassing? Would we be more likely to protect the integrity of the wilderness experience for which tourists from around the world travel to Maine, if the almighty dollar wasn't being waved in front of our faces?

If the state of Maine had not sanctioned this form of bribery, and if our legislators had not approved it, we would not be facing these issues. There is no way in the world the people of Maine would allow such an ill-advised, misguided, destructive and economically unfeasible plan to move forward on our iconic summits. If money was taken out of the equation, Mainers would be shouting "NO!" from these mountaintops. If the money was gone, then--we would really, really be working in "the best interest of the town".

All is not lost. I am encouraged. As more and more Mainers become informed on the true facts about these projects, the wind is shifting. People are standing up. People are speaking up. People are exercising their rights and calling for a stop to this foolish plan. Money isn't the be-all, end-all that the developers believe it to be. Some people care about the whole picture, and not just the short-term monetary gains. I hope the town of Carthage will recognize that there is much more value in its resources-- both human and 'natural'-- than there is value in being the temporary recipient of hand-outs from a for-profit company who is reaping its rewards from American workers' hard-earned tax money.

Respectfully,
Karen Pease
Lexington Twp., ME

 's picture

Great news

Steve Brown says, “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." Really? Well, if the work of FMM goes through, they'd probably keep it ALL open. It would be preserved and there would be NO blasting, no earth and rock removal, no habitat loss, no flashing lights or noise, and no useless, subsidy-driven 40 story tall wind turbines.

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