April 05, 2020
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Milford man wants to buy Old Town island for restaurant seating

OLD TOWN, Maine — A Milford man who has acquired the railroad car that once served as part of Captain Nick’s restaurant in Bangor wants to use it for an Old Town eatery and is trying to buy a nearby island in the Penobscot River for seasonal outdoor seating.

Michael Thornton is offering the city $10,000 to purchase Edging & Drift Island.

“I just thought it would be neat,” said Thornton, whose proposal went before the Old Town City Council’s finance committee Tuesday night.

The committee decided to contact abutting landowners to see if they were interested in purchasing the island before forwarding the proposal to the full council for a vote, City Council President David Mahan said. City Assessor Travis Roy and Code Enforcement Officer David Russell said that would be done before the next council meeting.

In the meantime, Thornton’s family and city officials are meeting with the state Department of Environmental Protection in the next week to discuss if the family can use the island as part of their plans.

“There is still a lot of work to be done,” Dan Thornton, Michael Thornton’s son, said after the finance committee meeting. “It’s all contingent on what is allowed.”

Roy told the committee that “The staff is recommending a conditional purchase and sales agreement … [with] conditions that they go through the permitting process” with state and federal officials.

“We just want to protect their interests,” Russell said after the meeting, adding he doesn’t want Thornton investing money if using the property is not possible. “I think it’s a great idea.”

The island is approximately 500 feet long and 200 feet wide at its widest point. It is located on tax map 25, lot 250. The city-owned parcel also includes Riverfront Park and Island Number 2, but Thornton would only purchase Edging & Drift Island.

The city uses the island as a spot to fire off the annual Fourth of July fireworks, Russell said.

“Access to the island will be just for the summer,” Thornton said. “The island, most of the time, is under water.”

In the summer months, water levels typically drop, allowing access to the island.

“We’ll put out picnic tables and stuff for kids,” Thornton said.

Thornton owns Thornton Construction Inc., which has been in business for 30 years, and also owns land adjacent to the island, near Dave’s Service Center on Route 2.

“I own the lot out front and a while ago I got it permitted to put a restaurant in,” Thornton said Tuesday morning. “If the city approved it, I’ll finally move forward with that.”

Thornton was permitted to open a restaurant on the site in 2009, Russell said, adding Thornton will have to get a new permit.

Thornton said he already has reached out to state officials to discuss using the island for restaurant seating and how to permit access to the parcel, which is about 75 feet from the banks of the Penobscot River near Route 2. He said his plan, which is dependent on whether the town approves his purchase of the island, is to add a footbridge for customers to access the island.

His company was hired to demolish the former Captain Nick’s building on Union Street in November.

Until it closed in June, Captain Nick’s was a popular seafood restaurant that had been operating at 1165 Union St. since it opened in 1985. Before that, the building was home to Chuck Wagon Restaurant.

“Almost everyone’s eaten in that railway car,” he said of the train car, which has eight booths installed.

“It’s a dream,” Dan Thornton said as he left the meeting.


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