Land dispute continues to hinder Nordic Aquafarms’ Maine RAS project
March 23, 2023 By Nestor Arellano
Nordic Aquafarms continues to face legal hurdles over land crucial to its proposed recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility in Belfast, Maine.
In 2021, it appeared that Nordic had a clear path to a stretch of intertidal land to run the intake and outfall pipes for the facility to and from Penobscot Bay after the Waldo County Superior Court ruled in favour of the Norwegian aquaculture company.
Back then, the court validated Nordic’s claim that it had legally purchased the land in question from Richard and Janet Eckrote, despite arguments by opponents of the project that the Eckrottes were not the real owners of the land. Now, the tables have turned.
Last month, the state’s Supreme Court sided with opponents of the company’s proposed recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility. The court stymied Nordic’s plans by annulling a lower court ruling that would have given the company access to a crucial intertidal waterfront property.
Furthermore, on March 21, the plaintiff in the previous case, Jeffrey Mabee, Judith Grace and the Friends of the Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area, filed a lawsuit in the Waldo County Superior Court asking the judge to block development on 12.5 acres of land within a 56-acre site which the Norwegian aquaculture company had purchased from the Belfast Water District.
The suit against the city of Belfast and Nordic seeks to nullify a Deed of Vacation the city issued to the company, according to a report from The Republican Journal. The land is located at the back of the company’s Route 1 lot. In 1973, the State of Maine conveyed the 12.5 acres to the city. The city later own-conveyed the parcel to the Belfast Water District in 1987, which later sold the land to Nordic. The deeds specify that these conditions “run with the land” which require the property to be kept in its natural condition.
In August 2021, Belfast councillors voted in favour of proceeding with an eminent domain action that would allow Nordic Aquafarms access through a stretch of intertidal mudflat.
The city issued a Deed of Vacation to Nordic on March 15, 2022 to remove restrictions and allow the company to develop on that parcel.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Kimberly Ervin Tucker, argues that the city was not legally allowed to end those restrictions and conditions. Tucker also said Belfast had no title, right, or interest regarding the restriction because it had surrendered the property to the Belfast Water District. He is asking the court to declare the Deed of Vacation null and void.
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