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December 1, 2017

Court temporarily halts MDOT's planned demolition of Wiscasset building for parking

Courtesy / Lincoln County News
Courtesy / Lincoln County News
Maine Department of Transportation's plans to demolish for a parking lot the former CEI headquarters in Wiscasset, often referred to as Haggett's Garage, have been temporarily halted by a Maine Business and Consumer Court judge.

The Business and Consumer Court, also known as the BCD, is the venue created in the state's court system for resolving business or consumer disputes by judges designated by the chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Its express purpose, according to the court's website, is to "keep litigation costs reasonable, and promote an effective and efficient process for resolving such disputes."

A Maine Business and Consumer Court judge has temporarily blocked the planned demolition of the former CEI headquarters acquired by the Maine Department of Transportation to create a public parking area as part of its $5 million plan to ease traffic congestion in downtown Wiscasset.

In the temporary restraining order issued Thursday, Justice M. Michaela Murphy noted that MDOT, which is the defendant in a case initiated by the Town of Wiscasset, had agreed to delay its demolition plans for the building at 36 Water St. (also known as Haggett's Garage). Murphy's order gave Wiscasset a Dec. 14 deadline for filing documents in support of the restraining order it requested on Nov. 29. She also gave MDOT a Jan. 11, 2018, deadline to file documents in support of its opposition to Wiscasset's request for an injunction.

Murphy scheduled a hearing in the case for Feb. 2, 2018.

MDOT paid CEI Inc. $408,000 for the property, which was the building's fair market value and approximately the same price Midcoast Conservancy would have paid, Elizabeth Rogers, CEI's marketing and communications director, told the Bangor Daily News in April.

Thursday's ruling is the latest development in what has turned out to be a controversial MDOT project intended to address longstanding traffic congestion problems on Route 1 in downtown Wiscasset, primarily during the summer tourism season.

As reported by Mainebiz in October, the biggest bone of contention in the $5 million project is the planned removal of all parking spots on Main Street in downtown Wiscasset during peak season: 51 spaces, July through mid-September, including 25 diagonal spaces on Main Street.

Although MDOT's project calls for creating 84 new parking spaces on neighboring streets — including 29 spaces at 36 Water St. — a number of Wiscasset merchants don't want to lose their downtown parking at the peak of the summer tourism season.

In her ruling, Murphy stipulated that MDOT would not demolish the building at 36 Water St. or proceed with "any actual project construction activities" absent a further court order or written agreement with the town.

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