Update: On January 19, Douglas Carter said if she (the abutting landowner Joan Rittall) would take less than $10,000 for the 1/3 of an acre, he would only ask the town for that amount of money.
“I don’t want any extra money from the town, I just want the land I bought.”
On Aug. 21, 2013, Douglas and Rebecca Carter of Boothbay Harbor bought the land located at 182 Lobster Cove Road from the town. According to the tax maps of Boothbay Harbor, this parcel of land equals 1.3 acres.
The Carters spent close to a year cleaning the land, which included getting rid of a trailer and cleaning up three dumps from previous owners, according to Douglas Carter.
When the time came to put in a septic system, an issue developed.
“We were told the land wasn't big enough to put in the septic where we planned,” Carter said. “A while ago a survey was done which put the land at an acre, not 1.3 acres. The last .3 acres was given to the Rittalls, our neighbors.”
There isn’t room for the septic system and the single-story home the Carters planned on.
In an effort to solve the problem, Carter said he contacted the neighbors, who have around 46 acres, to try and come to a resolution.
“We bought this land because it's where we, my wife and I, want to build a home to retire in, and I paid a lot of money for it, but I was willing to pay more to get what we wanted,” Carter said. “I offered them $3,000 to make the problem go away.”
The Carters’ winning bid for the land was $41,600. The next highest bid was $25,000.
“(Joan Rittall) said she wanted $15,000 for the land and not a penny less,” Carter said. “Now I paid my money to the town in good faith that I was getting 1.3 acres, and now, 13 months later, I find out I've lost 1/3 of it.”
According to the Rittalls, their counter-offer was not $15,000, but less.
“We made a counter-offer, which was very fair, nowhere near $15,000. We felt the land was worth more than their ($3,000) offer. We refused to sell and that was the end of it,” Rittall said in a phone interview.
The Carters asked that the town refund them $10,000 of their purchase price for their error, which the Carters would then use to try and buy the land from the Rittalls.
“It would just be righting a wrong, as you did not sell us what you said you had,” Carter said.
Town Manager Tom Woodin read a section of the official public notice that advertised the land.
“All properties are being offered and will be sold on an ‘as is, where is’ basis, including abandoned personal property as may remain on the property, and with no express or implied warranties whatsoever with respect to any matter, including but not limited to title, acreage, condition, suitability or fitness of any property for any purpose,” he read.
“I've done everything I can try to do to fix this,” Carter said. “You've screwed everyone over on taxes since 1883, taxing them for more land than they had. I was hoping I wouldn't have to get a lawyer to resolve this. I was hoping you people would do the right thing.”
Selectman Wendy Wolf agreed that the sale was “as is” but asked if the town could legally refund the purchase price and set the land out for re-bidding.
“If you feel this was not done in good faith, and we can refund, would that be satisfactory?” she said.
“It would be,” Carter said. “But we've done a lot of work cleaning the area, and this was our ideal spot to build our home. That's why we bid so much, we didn't want to miss out.”
“We really want the land,” Rebecca Carter added.
“He's just looking for what he paid for,” said George Friant of Boothbay Harbor, who was at the selectmen’s meeting. “I hope you can find in your hearts to do what's right.”
“You've got the money — 100 years of charging 1/3 of an acre too much for the land,” Frank Fassett of Boothbay Harbor added.
The selectmen decided they would seek the advice of the town attorney before making any decisions. The matter was tabled until their next meeting, which is on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Boothbay Harbor Town Office.