City councilors in Belfast, Maine, U.S.A. are considering the use of eminent domain to seize a piece of disputed property and end a protracted land dispute that has held up progress on a project planned by Nordic Aquafarms.
On 3 August, the council voted unanimously to pursue the takeover of an intertidal area that has been the subject of a court battle over ownership, Maine Public reported. The lawsuit over the intertidal area was first filed in 2019 by Jeffrey R. Mabee and Judith B. Grace, who allege that they are the true owners of intertidal land that Nordic plans to run inflow and outflow pipes through.
The dispute over the land surfaced before the court battle, with opponents to the project claiming during the permitting process via the Maine Department of Environmental Protection that Nordic Aquafarms never demonstrated sufficient “right, title, and interest” to the land in question. Ultimately, the Maine DEP disagreed and granted the permits.
According to Maine Public, the councilors said that by taking over the adjacent properties, they can end the legal dispute over who has the authority to allow Nordic Aquafarms to run the pipes across the intertidal zone. Nordic Aquafarms already has obtained rights to run the pipes across the land leading up to the intertidal zone.
Project opponents, including the recently created Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area – which comprises the land Nordic Aquafarms plans to use – object to the use of eminent domain by the councilors.
"I think they have known since at least April that a court case might not go in Nordic's favor, and they needed to try and have a plan B, however shaky it might turn out to be," Andy Stevenson, a spokesman for the conservation area, said, according to Maine Public.
Councilors said a resolution is long overdue to the dispute.
"The bottom line is that after three-and-a-half years, this has gone on three-and-a-half years," Councilor Michael Hurley said. "The opposition has lost every single legal battle. Their entire approach was it didn't matter if they win, they were going to exhaust Nordic through time and money."
Image courtesy of Nordic Aquafarms