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Quahog Bay Conservancy plans ‘hub of marine research excellence’ on site of former inn

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The Quahog Bay Conservancy plans to transform the former Quahog Bay Inn into a “hub of marine research excellence” and revitalize the property’s working waterfront.

Patrick Scanlan, founder and president of the nonprofit conservancy, is proposing to remove all structures on the property and replace them with a saltwater laboratory, a duplex to house students and researchers, a “lobster shack” for retail sales of seafood, and a new wharf.

Scanlan’s JD LLC owns the property. He said he named the limited liability company for his one-eyed cocker spaniel, Jack Daniels.

Established in 2015, the conservancy says its mission “is to revitalize the ecosystem of Quahog Bay to a robust and resilient state for all communities that depend on it. Through sustainable aquaculture, ecosystem monitoring, and community education, we aim to conserve natural habitat, protect native wildlife, foster environmental stewards, and support Maine’s working waterfront.” The nonprofit is headquartered at 286 Bethel Point Road.

The Harpswell Planning Board unanimously approved JD LLC’s application on Sept. 20. The project still needs federal and state permits.

JD LLC will build “environmentally friendly buildings that will help to restore, maintain and support the working waterfront,” according to its application to the Planning Board. The 68-page application details the vision for the approximately $13 million project.

The Quahog Bay Conservancy Lab would facilitate marine research in a few focus areas:  microplastics, kelp and oyster aquaculture, and invasive species.

The lab “aims to become a hub of marine research excellence in the region,” according to the application. “By focusing on the study of microplastics in the marine environment, we strive to understand their ecological impact (and) their interaction with marine organisms, and develop strategies for their mitigation. Additionally, our research extends to fisheries and water quality, examining the health of local fish populations, promoting sustainable fishing practices, and contributing to the overall health of the marine ecosystem.”

The application says the lab will provide “rigorous testing and analysis of seafood” to ensure that “the seafood harvested and consumed in Harpswell is of exceptional quality, free from harmful substances, and compliant with industry regulations.”

The redevelopment of the Quahog Bay Inn property will include the demolition and replacement of its waterfront facilities. J.W. Oliver / Harpswell Anchor


The duplex will provide temporary housing for interns, student researchers and visiting scientists.

“The availability of housing ensures that the most promising minds can participate in research programs, exchange ideas, and contribute to the conservation and sustainable management of our marine resources,” the application says.

The new lobster shack will offer retail sales of lobsters and oysters, and will sell bait, fuel and ice to fishermen.

The conservancy will operate the retail business and a lobster buying station, Scanlan said in a phone interview. Income from those activities will support the conservancy’s mission.

The conservancy already supplements its income by growing and selling its Snow Island Oysters. The lobster shack and wharf will work in a similar fashion, according to Scanlan.

Scanlan said he wants to foster an environment that will attract Harpswell’s young lobstermen, the junior license holders who represent the future of the fleet. He wants to bring them into the facility and spread excitement about the conservancy’s work.

JD LLC presented its application to the Planning Board on Aug. 16.

In November 2022, JD LLC purchased the former inn at 5-7 Lobster Lane, off Pinkham Point Road on Sebascodegan Island, for $2.7 million from the estate of Robert Waddle, according to town records.

Waddle, a lobsterman and founder of a lobstermen’s co-op, died at 93 on May 12, 2022, according to his obituary. The inn announced its permanent closure and sale on its Facebook page in October 2022. The inn was built in 1978, according to town records.

The former inn consists of two buildings with a half-dozen apartments. The apartments are vacant except for a couple of conservancy employees who stay there part time, according to Scanlan. He said septic problems limit the use of the property. The septic system will be replaced.

The other structures on the 0.6-acre parcel are a “lobster shack” and a wharf, referred to in the application as Waddle’s Wharf. The waterfront business was shut down prior to the sale of the property, according to Scanlan.

JD LLC plans to remove those structures, which it describes as deteriorating, and build a 26-foot-by-56-foot saltwater laboratory, a 26-by-64 duplex, a 23-by-39 lobster shack and a 16-by-186 wharf.

The conservancy’s plans for the buildings include a focus on energy conservation and sustainable building materials. The buildings will use exterior insulation, heat pumps, and energy recovery ventilation to minimize their energy use. Solar arrays will offset the energy they do use.

Will Gartley, an engineer for the project and president of Gartley & Dorsky Engineering & Surveying Inc., told the Planning Board the new wharf will be about 2 feet higher than the old one to protect against flooding. The new wharf will have a concrete surface, while the wooden bulkhead will be replaced with granite.

A letter from an investment adviser for Scanlan estimates the cost of redevelopment at $13 million, while other documents in the application place the cost between $11 million and $13 million.

“The owner has sufficient funds to cover the estimated total project cost of $13MM,” the investment adviser said in the letter.

The existing buildings constitute “nonconforming” uses of the property. “Nonconforming” means the buildings do not conform to present-day zoning, but because they pre-date that zoning, they are legal and it is legal to replace them, subject to limitations.

In addition to town approval, the project needs permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. JD LLC expects to receive those permits in early 2024, according to the application.

In August, the Planning Board voted to hire an engineering firm to conduct a technical review of the project at the applicant’s expense. Gorrill Palmer, a firm that frequently works with the town, completed the review.

“This is one heck of a project and it’s probably the biggest project since I’ve been on the board,” Planning Board Chair Al LeGrow said at the August meeting.

At the Sept. 20 meeting, Planning Board members said the applicant had addressed their concerns regarding site access, building layout, drainage, landscaping and other issues.

The board’s approval is subject to conditions. JD LLC must secure off-site parking to supplement the property’s seven spaces and obtain all necessary federal and state approvals.

Planning Board members expressed enthusiasm for the project after the vote.

“Thank you very much, everybody,” Vice Chair Amy Haible said. “That was great. Really happy to have you in Harpswell.”

The application says the lab intends to “enhance marine science education and inspire the next generation of marine researchers and environmental stewards” through its own work and collaboration with educational institutions.

Scanlan said the conservancy already brings in interns every year and collaborates on educational and research initiatives with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the University of Maine, but wants to do more in those areas.

The lab will bring economic and environmental benefits to Harpswell through employment opportunities and “providing valuable insights into the bay’s health,” the application says.

“By conducting local, multifaceted research, we actively contribute to the preservation of the marine environment, which benefits both residents and visitors who rely on a healthy ocean ecosystem for tourism, recreation, and livelihoods.”

J. Craig Anderson contributed reporting.

The new owner of the Quahog Bay Inn property plans to replace the “lobster shack” on the property and resume retail sales of seafood from the new building. (J.W. Oliver photo)

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