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OWLS HEAD, Maine — The purchase of a waterfront lot to ensure continued public access to the harbor was approved Monday night on a tsunami of support from residents.
Of the about 100 people attending the special town meeting, only one person voted against acquiring the 1.24 acres off Lighthouse Road from Elizabeth and Thomas Watkinson for $305,000.
Commercial fisherman Kevin Glover was one of many who urged support for the purchase. He said that fishermen up and down the coast are losing access to harbors and that this purchase was important for local fishermen.
The acquisition became necessary when the town was unable to negotiate an extension of a 3-foot-wide easement along the side of a wharf owned by Rodney and Anna Mason of Ship to Shore Lobster Co. That 50-year easement ends Dec. 7.
Selectman David Matthews said without public access, the town would not be in compliance with an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that has the federal government responsible for dredging the channel so boaters can navigate the harbor. Without that agreement, the town might have to pay for any future dredging on its own.
The property that is being purchased is adjacent to the town-owned parking lot and includes a beach that the public can now use.
Matthews said the next step will be to determine the costs of constructing a pier, gangway and floats for the property being acquired.
The purchase is being made from the town’s general fund surplus. Matthews said the town’s surplus is nearing $1 million.
The town tried for several years to work toward an extension of the prior lease. A town committee was formed in 2008 to work on options for public access if renewal was not possible.
The easement first was signed between the town and Peter Reed Jr. on Dec. 7, 1966. The term was for 50 years or whenever the town built its own public wharf. The town paid nothing for the lease.
The Masons purchased the property and 14,200-square-foot wharf in October 2008.