The Freeport Town Council tonight will decide whether to issue permits for the removal and launch of research vessel Island Rover from a property at 0 Bucknam Road. The meeting is slated for 7 p.m. at the town office.

The 80-ton, steel-hulled research vessel has been at the center of a 15-year zoning dispute and has cost the town $12,000 in legal fees since December.

The Island Rover Foundation was found in contempt of a court when it failed to move the vessel out of a residential zone. The foundation said it would launch the vessel between Nov. 10 to 15, pending permit approval.

Town Manager Peter Joseph, in an earlier interview, said moving the vessel was akin to moving a house.

Trees must be trimmed, powerlines moved and the vessel must remain in the center of the road as it’s towed s o that it doesn’t tip over, according to Public Works Director Earl Gibson.

Three proposed sites for launching include Burnett Road, Marietta Lane, and 0 Shore Road, but abutting property owners have been reluctant to allow the vessel to cross their property.

In an October meeting, the town council questioned both the logistics and the feasibility of the launch. Concerns were raised that roads would be blocked to accommodate the launch, and if the vessel could be towed or would even float.

The town could take possession of the boat and dismantle it as a last resort.

“I would like the project to be successful, but I want to protect the town,” Vice- Chairperson Melanie Sachs said.

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