OLD TOWN, Maine — When the last known owner of a plot of land on Treat and Webster Island seemed to have abandoned the property in the 1930s, some nearby residents claimed parts of it as their own.
Now, they find themselves embroiled in a land dispute with the city over who really has rights to it.
The land in question — known as lot 189 — sits along the southwestern end of the island, surrounded by the Penobscot River. One resident claims the lot was owned by the Union Land Company in the late 1890s, although after 1930, the company stopped filing annual reports, leaving a vacant lot behind.
Some 40 years later, the city installed a sewer main along the land. Thinking it had acquired the property before then but unable to locate a deed, the city condemned the lot in August to begin eminent domain proceedings — a process in which a government entity takes possession of private property for public use.
At the same time, residents who live beside lot 189 continued to make improvements on the land — such as longtime neighbors Leda Theriault, who put in a retaining wall in the 1960s, and Jim Mitchell, who installed raised garden beds and has developed other parts of the property for community use.