December 29, 2011

Investor buys Moscow radar site

MOSCOW -- A company called Western Maine Realty now owns nearly 1,500 acres and several large buildings that once held equipment that scanned from Greenland to Cuba for approaching Soviet missiles and planes.

After a two-month-long online auction, the company with an address in Portland placed the highest bid of $730,000 for the former radar site, according to Patrick Sclafani, a public affairs officer with the U.S. General Services Administration.

Western Maine Realty is owned by Jay Cashman, who is chairman of the board for the heavy construction company Jay Cashman Inc., based in Quincy, Mass.

Todd Presson, chief operating officer of an affiliate company and wind energy developer, Patriot Renewables, said he does not know Cashman's plans for the Moscow property, which extends into Caratunk.

Western Maine Realty is "a real estate entity that Jay owns for investing in properties," Presson said, and in the coming months Cashman will determine what to do.

"He'll have to evaluate all the possible uses for that property," said Presson, who helped develop the Beaver Ridge Wind project in Freedom. "I don't think he's ruling anything out at this point."

Suzanne O'Brien, a licensed real estate broker who owns a separate company also called Western Maine Realty, in Lovell, clarified that her agency is not the one that bought the land.

Moscow selectman Donald Beane said the site has been in a state of uncertainty for many years. Though there have been some prospective buyers, they never completed a sale.

"I'm glad it's being sold, and we're hopeful that something can be developed there that would help the economy of the area," Beane said.

The property off Stream Road Extension has been tax exempt for decades because it was owned by the federal government.

"Now we'll be able to get some revenue from it," he said.

The site has been eyed as a potential location for wind turbines.

Peter Vigue, president of Cianbro Corp. in Pittsfield, partnered with Larry Warren, of Maine Windpower LLC, to possibly build a wind farm in the vicinity and pair the inexpensive electricity with a business at the former radar site. Two testing poles gathered wind data in Moscow and Caratunk.

It's not publicly known whether the pair bid on the property. Warren did not return a phone message on Wednesday.

Beane said he thinks wind power development is less likely now because of Caratunk's recently approved development limitations. In November, Caratunk residents approved an ordinance that restricts the placement of wind turbines to at least 1 1/2 miles from any property line.

Western Maine Realty is a limited liability company that was officially formed on June 3, according to the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions, with the Maine Department of the Secretary of State.

The company's physical address, 100 Middle St., West Tower, Portland, is the same as that for the law firm Bernstein Shur. The articles of organization, filed with the state, show that there will be between one and five managers, but they have not yet been selected.

There are no conditions of sale other than to pay the bid amount, Sclafani said. There were a total of seven anonymous parties who placed their bids at realestatesales.gov.

The 1,494 acres contain three warehouse-style buildings and one garage-style building, with a total of 43,000 square feet of space.

The buildings once held the Air Force's Over-the-Horizon-Backscatter radar system, which was developed in the 1970s, built in the 1980s and shut down in the 1990s.

During the Cold War, the system bounced detection signals off the upper part of the atmosphere to search for enemy aircraft up to 1,800 miles away over the Atlantic Ocean.

Erin Rhoda -- 612-2368

erhoda@centralmaine.com

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