The town of Freeport will sue to prove it owns a schooner made out of recycled metal it has been trying to get off a residential lot for more than a decade.

Town councilors last week voted unanimously to pursue litigation to clarify ownership of the Island Rover, a 113-foot ship that Harold Arndt has been building on Flying Point. The council wants to enforce a court order that required the Island Rover Foundation, which Arndt founded and is now president of, to remove the ship by this past September or turn it and the property over to the town. The town’s claim is disputed by the foundation and a local marina owner, who has said he owns a majority of the ship.

“I believe the town has tried in good faith to make this work,” council Chairwoman Sarah Tracy said at the meeting last week. The council agreed in October to consider an extension so the foundation can complete and launch the vessel but it can’t negotiate an agreement unless ownership is settled, Tracy said. Foundation members have said the boat is almost done and could be launched by next summer.

“We don’t do this lightly,” she said. “I particularly do this with a heavy heart, mindful that this has the potential to use additional town resources, I’m not excited about that at all.”

Arndt started building the Island Rover more than 20 years ago. He and the foundation have been under a series of consent orders with the town aimed at removing the vessel to resolve zoning violations. The property is in a part of town where manufacturing is not allowed.

In 2005, the town granted Arndt and the foundation five years to finish the vessel, then granted a three-year extension in 2010. After he and the foundation missed that deadline, another consent agreement was filed in Cumberland County Superior Court in 2014 that gave the foundation until Sept. 9, 2016, to remove the vessel from the property or automatically transfer the land title and a bill of sale for the vessel to the town.


The town is sure it owns the vessel and the land it is being built on. But Carter Becker, the owner of Falls Point Marine in Freeport, has worked on the vessel, and said Arndt gave him 70 percent ownership of the ship earlier this year. Becker has applied for a state permit to build a ramp into a cove about half a mile from where the boat is being built in order to launch it. Neighbors are fiercely opposed to that plan. Becker did not return a request for comment Monday.

In a telephone interview Monday, Arndt said the foundation owns the ship but that it is also accurate that Becker owns a substantial portion of it. Arndt would not explain the apparent ownership conflict.

“That is exactly why we are not discussing this with anybody,” Arndt said. “The town is going to find out the hard way.”

Foundation spokesman Ken Koehler said in an email last month that the foundation was the fundraising arm of the organization and not the vessel’s owner, even though it is a party to the 2014 consent agreement.

“The foundation does not nor ever has owned the boat,” Koehler said. He did not return an email requesting comment Monday.


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