New Yard Still Afloat Despite Set Backs from MaineDOT

A Rendering of the New Yard Dock and Wharf from the Water by Phin Sprague,  Jr.

A Rendering of the New Yard Dock and Wharf from the Water by Phin Sprague, Jr.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,117)

“I’m spending money like a drunken sailor because of eminent domain,” said Phin Sprague, Jr., this afternoon at his make shift office on the site of the planned New Yard, on West Commercial Street.  “I have a responsibility to my employees.  What was a relatively simple, fully permitted plan, has turned into somewhat of a nightmare.”  Sprague, focused on building plans spread  before him, was optimistic despite the set backs that have put his plans for a state-of-the-art boat yard – New Yard –  more than a year behind schedule.

Last year, Sprague sold his family’s legacy to another off-shore sailor Jim Brady and his investment group.  That put into  motion an expedited hunt by the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum for a new site – probably up in Gray behind the shopping center.  The Museum needs to vacate the site by January 1, 2016.  Donnell Carroll, a former state legislator, is the executive director. The sale of the valuable property at the bottom of Munjoy Hill also put pressure on Sprague to get his operation moved because his lease with Brady is now up in December of 2014.

Last year, Sprague purchased 22 acres of blighted land that no one wanted from Pan Am Railway. However, along came Eimskip, the Icelandic container shipping co.  It needed rail space to make its shipping more efficient.  It’s a company that Sprague fully supports as being essential to the  growth of Maine’s economy. MaineDOT promised that rail facility to Eimship within five years and so it took 18 acres of Sprague’s New Yard by eminent domain.  “Have you ever known the MaineDOT to take land by eminent domain for full value?” Sprague asked frustrated.  “You have to claw the money out of them in the process that’s established for eminent domain compensation.  A process that will take 3 or 4 years to resolve.  It includes going to court as well.”

In the meantime, to meet his December deadline with Brady to vacate the property, he has paid Pan Am a deposit on more land farther west on West Commercial Street.  It’s less useful because it’s so narrow because it’s divided by the International Marine Terminal (“IMT”) railroad expansion plans for Eimskip.  On that additional land, Sprague plans on building a large, steel building next to the building that’s already in place on the site.  It’ll be 180 ft. x 150 ft and will be a maintenance/storage building so that Portland Yacht Services can move in by the end of the year.  The building will be painted barn red to match the brick buildings on the Hill.  The two buildings will be attached.  The location of the office space is uncertain as of this time.  But Sprague needs city approval before he can begin building it – something he hopes to get soon. It’s another process that he hopes will start with the city on June 24th. Again.  Actually, this will be his fourth appearance before the Plannng Board for its approval.  “It’s a tight squeeze,” he said.  “The city has been great. (Represented by Bill Needleman and Rick Knowland)  They understand how badly we’ve been hurt by the process in agreeing to move for the IMP expansion for Eimskip.”

“It’s been brutal and horrifically expensive to accommodate the IMT expansion and stay in business,” Sprague said.