Rockland Engine Quarry quit claim sale defeated
ROCKLAND – An ordinance proposal in First Reading authorizing a quit claim sale of Engine Quarry in Rockland met defeat Monday, May 14, as councilors voted one to four on the measure.
Councilor Adam Ackor voted alone in favor of using the quit claim route for sale of the parcel to Jake Barbour of Rockland. The move would possibly avoid, and therefore end more than a decade of sometimes contentious volleying regarding ownership of the quarry. And seeing that the Barber family holds other property of value to the City, the Barbers and some City employees believe that the quarry purchase by Barbour, followed by a land swap with the City, would be a win-win.
Before joining City Council, Ackor also bid, and won ownership of the quarry.
“My title search revealed that there was a substantial conflict with the Barbour Family, and so I backed out,” he said. “I just said it’s not worth my trouble. But really, I feel like it’s just time to move forward rather than kicking this can down the road for another generation of councilors to deal with.”
For now, however, the property will return to being unclaimed until a future council takes up the cause again.
During discussions May 14, the same issues of the past resurfaced, plaguing councilors with differing interpretations of title by the city attorney, Barbour, abutting neighbors, and a representative of the 2015 highest bidder, Fred Dodd.
This property, adjacent to Thompson Meadow and Old County roads, has been researched and granted clear title by the former City attorney, received bids for ownership, and was sold twice, according to Mayor Valli Geiger. With each sale, a member of the Barbour Family has returned to City Hall in contention, renewing focus on what some at the table describe as the title’s ‘murkiness.’
City Manager Tom Luttrell estimated that the sale of the quarry has come before council five times in the past. Each time, serving members vetted the issue, and tabled it in favor of letting a future council respond.
Attorney Mary Costigan sent a memo to Luttrell May 14 highlighting concerns with a recent title claim. In that case, when the City foreclosed on the land, it wasn’t done properly, Luttrell said. The wrong book page and property page were listed. The foreclosure description was for a property on Front Street. References to Engine Quarry and other deeds left the law firm unsure if all parcels were foreclosed properly, or foreclosed upon at all. And finally, though there is a 1996 release deed for all interest of Rockland-Rockport Lime Company to the Barbours, no sources of title are cited.
“The city’s been using that land to dump snow for, I guess, years,” Ackor said. “It seemed to me that the idea of swapping, or selling the quarry to Mr. Barbour and purchasing the other two parcels seemed to be a really good way to wrap all of this up for the City. I just felt like it was in the best interest of the City.”
The Barbour Family owns land behind the transfer station, which the City would find useful if it ever wants to build a garage there, according to Luttrell. The other land on Rankin Street would need to be claimed as an easement for future sewer lines “if we ever want to expand in that area,” he said. Also, the Parks Commission has expressed desire to create a trail from MacDougal Park to the ballpark on Old County Road, requiring an easement, as well.
“If we own the land, it’s even better,” he said.
Thus, as early as 2006, according to Engine Quarry neighbor Cathie Dorr, the City and Barbour have been considering a land trade.
“We tried to do [that] several times with other properties,” Dorr said, “and were told the City doesn’t do trades.”
Luttrell assured her that in this case it wouldn’t be a trade, but two separate sale purchases.
Barbour said he has no grand plans for the quarry, but would not fill it in.
“Why would I want to?” he said. “It wouldn’t make any sense to do that. It would be a mess, wouldn’t you say. A big cloudy pool of dirty water is not going to do me any good.
“Even if this thing goes to Fred [Dodd], it leaves me in a hard spot,” he said. “Then, what do I do? Do I just walk away from it? Do I exercise my rights to what I think I have for an interest? It probably won’t be you guys, but it will be somebody else. When you guys want to build a public works facility, we’re going to be right here again, and we’re going to be going through this whole process again. When you guys want to put a sewer line from MacDougal School up towards Old County Road, and when you want to put a walking path in, we’re going to be doing this again.”
In 2015, ecologist Fred Dodd won ownership of the quarry, according to a representative of his at the meeting. For a time, nothing further happened. And then, according to the representative, the parcel went back to City auction. Dodd also participated in that.
Dodd, who already owns one quarry in Rockland, according to the rep, intends to purify Engine Quarry, beautify it, and allow the public walk, kayak, and enjoy the environment.
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