Fir flying in Down East land dispute

Posted Sept. 22, 2009, at 8:05 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — A lawsuit about the location of a right of way has put the construction of a major wreath-making facility on hold and caused Whitney Originals to lease three other buildings to house its work crews.

Whitney Originals was recently awarded the contract for all wreaths and balsam products for L.L. Bean, and the company began construction of a large building in Whitneyville, next to the Machias town line, on Route 1, to augment its existing wreath-making facilities.

Worcester Holdings LLC of Columbia, however, maintains that it owns property behind Whitney’s and that its right of way runs directly under Whitney’s new building.

In a civil lawsuit filed in Washington County Superior Court, Worcester Holdings LLC has asked that the building be removed and damages paid for violation of the easement and trespass.

“We own the piece of land in back there,” Morrill Worcester said Tuesday. “It will eventually be used as tip land.” Tips are the part of the evergreens used for wreath making.

“The problem is there is a great big swamp in the middle of the land and the only way we can access it is through our right of way,” Worcester said. He added that the right of way is listed in his deed to the land.

In court documents, however, Whitney Originals maintains that the easement that Worcester Holdings claims — across the so-called “Old Longfellow Meadow Road” — was not recorded when Whitney’s became the owner of its property in September 1982.

The documents also state that the Old Longfellow Meadow Road actually goes behind a nearby plumbing and heating company, coming out on its east side to meet U.S. Route 1. “Construction is not occurring on the Old Longfellow Meadow Road, the suit states.

A hearing is scheduled in Hancock County Superior Court at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 9, to settle the dispute.

David Whitney is out of state on vacation but his spokesman, Cary Weston, said Tuesday that work has been halted at the new building site because of the lawsuit.

“We are in peak season,” Weston said. “Hundreds of people rely on us for their livelihood.”

To house those parts of the operation that would have been in the new warehouse, Whitney has leased three buildings — the former Rite Aid in Machias, a building in Baileyville and another in Presque Isle.

“At the end of the day, it is the employees that are David’s first concern,” Weston said.

He said Whitney is “completely confident” that the lawsuit will be dismissed in October.

When asked Tuesday, Worcester denied local rumors that he filed the lawsuit because he lost the L.L. Bean contract to Whitney’s, or that it was because Whitney’s did not purchase his construction concrete from one of Worcester’s subsidiaries.

“No. Absolutely not,” he said. “That had nothing to do with the lawsuit.”

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