FREEPORT — The Island Rover Foundation has asked the Freeport Town Council for a year-long extension to complete and move a recycled metal schooner from a residential neighborhood on Flying Point Road.

The council did not vote on an extension Tuesday night, but discussed the project and the property for more than three hours at a meeting with at least 50 residents.

Councilors are deciding whether to give the nonprofit more time or find another solution to remove the ship, including selling it for scrap.

The town took control of the 90-foot schooner and the wooded building site from the foundation last month, after the group missed a deadline to move the vessel that was part of a 2014 court order.

Weighing over the decision is the fact that the ship has been worked on for more than 20 years and is still not complete. Since 2005, the town has allowed Harold Arndt, who started the Island Rover, to work on the ship, in violation of zoning rules that prohibit manufacturing there.

But councilors have serious concerns about the foundation’s financial situation and ability to complete the project. There are lingering concerns about environmental damage at the building site, littered with construction debris and old vehicles.

And now, there are fresh problems with the foundation’s plan to build a concrete launch ramp for the ship in a neighborhood a half-mile away from the building site.

Councilors said they would consider an extension, but would need assurances from the foundation that it would including a firm timeline for completion, proof of funding and a development plan, alternative ways to launch the ship or remove it and a written clean-up plan.

The town is concerned about liability concerns at the site and Town Manager Peter Joseph said it will cost $5,000 to buy special insurance for the site.

Foundation Vice President Willy Leathers said the council’s request was reasonable. He told councilors that it would take about four weeks to finish welding plates to the ship’s stern, sandblasting and painting it. The foundation has the money to complete that work, he added.

It would take another year to formulate a plan to move the ship, Leathers added. It would cost approximately $70,000 to move it to the proposed launch ramp.

“We can all agree it is time for the ship to move from the woodlot and get to water,” Leathers said.

More than a dozen people spoke at the meeting, many in support of the Island Rover project who asked councilors to give it more time, since it was so close to completion.

But many others, especially neighborhood residents, said the project had run its course and doubted the foundation would ever complete the ship. Some said the town needed to enforce its zoning and put an end to the construction and worried about environmental harm on the building site.

“It was a great idea, but it is a failed idea,” said Patrick Griffin. “They have not provided any financial evidence that they are going to finish this project.”

Residents of Shore Drive were fiercely opposed to installing a concrete launch ramp in their neighborhood. Construction could permanently damage the cove and might lead to a commercial operation.

“Enough is enough, it just needs to be stopped,” said Cathryn Bigley.

Carter Becker, from Falls Point Marine in Freeport who intends to build the ramp and move the ship, said he had no intention to set up a new business.

“I am not trying to set up a commercial facility down there, I am trying to launch a boat for Harold and myself,” Becker said.

The council intends to consider the Island Rover at its meeting Oct. 18.


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