Documents conflicted on whether island is in Knox or Waldo county

Knox County debates staking claim to Lassell Island

By Stephen Betts | Feb 11, 2020
Photo by: Maine Island Living Lassell Island

Lassell Island — Is Lassell Island, located between North Haven and Islesboro, part of Knox County or Waldo County?

That question was raised Feb. 11 during a Knox County Commissioners meeting.

Lassell Island consists of 105 acres of which five people or limited liability corporations own all the land.

One of the items on the Knox Commissioners agenda was whether the county should submit a boundary validation form to the U.S. Census Bureau. That program allows government organizations an opportunity to determine whether boundaries are correct.

County Administrator Andrew Hart said he was not sure whether Knox should submit the form. He acknowledged there were conflicting documentation about the issue.

Deed transactions on the island have been recorded in Waldo County since at least 2008, he said. Maine Revenue Services lists the unorganized territory as part of Waldo County.

But numerous deeds make reference to Lassell Island as being located in Knox County. The state filed a lien in 1968 against a property owner there for not paying a tax. The lien stated that Lassell Island was part of Knox County.

A 1985 deed filed in Waldo County on the island makes reference to a deed transaction filed in 1979 that states that the island is in Knox County.

Waldo County Finance Director Karen Trussell said Waldo County received more than $3,000 in taxes last year from the state for the unorganized territory being located in its county. This year, the payment will exceed $4,000.

Waldo County has been receiving the money in the 17 years she has been with the county for both Lassell and Little Bermuda islands. She said Little Bermuda is so small it is under water at high tide.

Hart told commissioners he was still looking into the matter and did not know who the final arbiter of the matter would be.

Dr. David Martin of Berkeley, Calif., one of the owners of a portion of Lassell Island, said Wednesday that his grandmother owned most of the island for about 40 years.

"My understanding has always been that at least the southern part of the island (the part owned by my grandmother) is in Knox County," Martin said.

He said he has seen maps that place the northern part of the island in Waldo County, but also seen other maps that have the whole thing in Knox County.

He said there are currently about five houses on the island as well as a camp at the north end, and various utility structures.

"Whichever county is getting taxes from the properties is getting a good deal, since there are no services of any kind out there. I doubt that even law enforcement would be able to reach it in a timely fashion," he said.

"Knox County seems appropriate since Camden and Rockport have always been the embarkation points," he said.

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