CASTINE, Maine — Maine Maritime Academy will be able to use the Abbott House as a residence for future presidents.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, in a decision made public Thursday, affirmed the judgment in Hancock County Superior Court that allowed the college to use the property.
The town of Castine had filed suit against MMA after the college purchased the house and 6 acres from the estate of the late Deborah Pulliam last year. The property is located across the street from the college campus and is located in the Village III district, one of three residential districts established by the town’s zoning ordinance.
The college is located in the Institutional Development District. The issue before the Law Court was whether — as the town had argued — MMA’s use of the Abbott House as a residence for the president was an institutional use which would violate the town’s ordinance.
In Superior Court, Justice Kevin Cuddy sympathized with the town’s position, particularly its concerns over the number of receptions that were reported to be held at the Wyman House, the current home of MMA’s president. He ruled, however, that “as a matter of law, the Abbott House may be used as a residence for MMA’s president as its principal use.”
The Law Court heard arguments in the case on Sept. 17 and reached a decision on Tuesday that affirmed Justice Cuddy’s ruling. The decision was made public on the court’s Web site without comment Thursday.
The decision appears to end the dispute over the Abbott House. Castine Town Manager Dale Abernethy said Thursday that he did not expect further legal action.
“There is no next step,” he said. “This is the final authority as far as I know.”
MMA President Leonard Tyler said the decision was good news for the college.
“We’re pleased that the court’s decision came out the way we expected it to,” Tyler said Friday. “Hopefully, this will put an end to the issue. We will use the Abbott House as we’ve said we intend to use it, as a residence for the new president.”
Tyler plans to retire this summer, and though his contract runs through August, the new president, who has not yet been named, likely will be on campus before that. The house is in good shape, Tyler said, although it may need some work that will probably be done in consultation with the new MMA president. The house will be ready for the new president to move into, Tyler said.