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HHLT Board Declines Offer of Harpswell Coastal Academy Property

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust
May 16, 2023

The Harpswell Heritage Land Trust Board of Trustees has declined an offer to take ownership of the Harpswell Coastal Academy (HCA) property located on Ash Point Road. In an emergency meeting on Saturday, the trustees voted, with some regret, not to accept the proposal made by Arthur “Art” Girard, of Delta Realty LLC, of Portland, who placed the winning bid for the nearly 8-acre HCA property during an auction on May 10.

“The board felt that there are too many unknowns regarding the property, and the school building that stands on it, and that this type of acquisition is not part of our main mission,” said Wendy Batson, president of the HHLT Board of Trustees. She added that the May 17 deadline for a decision, set by Girard and Keenan Auction House, which conducted the auction, did not give the board sufficient time to responsibly research the potential legal and financial risks posed by accepting ownership of the HCA site.

Girard had said he would offer more than $300,000 for the property and then donate it to the land trust if HHLT or other interested parties would raise the remaining funds to meet the auction’s $385,000 reserve price. Harpswell Coastal Academy, a public charter school for grades five through 12, is set to close at the end of the school year after a decade in operation. The Maine Charter School Commission did not renew its charter, citing a variety of concerns.

A group of neighboring homeowners had gathered pledges to help complete the purchase of the property. Batson said HHLT would consider offering appropriate assistance if the group decided to proceed with its efforts regarding the HCA property.

Batson explained that the land trust worked quickly to gather information about the opportunity, but the May 17 deadline did not allow for the extensive due diligence that HHLT typically goes through before accepting a property. “The potential costs of mothballing or maintaining such a large building are also considerable,” she added. “And we had no way of determining how long HHLT would have to meet those costs while deciding what was best done with the building.”

With so many unknowns and so little time to address them, the board concluded that the risks of acceptance outweighed the potential benefits.  “We regret that we did not have more time to work with the town and community members to find a way forward,” Batson said.

HHLT has also published a letter to the community. To read it, click here.