Showing posts with label NEPAAwardWinner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NEPAAwardWinner. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

State: One Santa okay; another no way

Published in the Portland Phoenix and the Boston Phoenix

Maine regulators have refused to approve an English beer’s label featuring Santa Claus holding a beer, saying it makes the product attractive to children. But they didn’t balk at approving the label for Gritty’s Christmas Ale, which shows a man dressed up as Santa Claus, also holding a beer.

In October, the state agency that approves beer-bottle labels (yes, we have one; it’s the Liquor Licensing and Compliance division of the Department of Public Safety) wrote to Shelton Brothers, importer of Santa’s Butt (a winter porter), saying the beer’s label (which shows a rear view of a fat-assed Santa sitting on a type of barrel that’s called a “butt”), and two other beer-bottle labels featuring bare-breasted women, are “undignified or improper.”

Last week, Shelton Brothers filed suit in federal court, saying the state’s ban and the rule it is based on violate the First Amendment’s protection of artistic expression.

New York and Connecticut have recently expressed similar concerns over artwork on bottles imported by Shelton Brothers, a Massachusetts-based beer importer (headquartered, of all places, in Belchertown), but anti-censorship lawsuits in those states led to the bans being reversed.

In remarks to the press before he began declining to comment on the case, Maine State Police Lieutenant Patrick Fleming, who heads the state’s liquor-licensing agency, elaborated, saying the depiction of Santa might appeal to children.

That doesn’t wash with Gritty’s owner Richard Pfeffer. “Children aren’t really in the beer aisle all that much, unless they’re accompanied by adults,” he says. The Gritty’s Christmas Ale label has met with no problems from regulators, and was re-approved in April.

Shelton Brothers imports nearly 150 beers from around the world, and has run into trouble with a few of them, mostly relating to holiday designs brewed by the Ridgeway Brewery in England, whose brewer — a friend of the Sheltons — collaborates with them on beer and label ideas.

Maine officials have also declined to say whether this ruling means long-approved labels on other beers might also now be determined to appeal to children. (In addition to the Gritty’s Christmas Ale with Santa, several breweries have beers whose labels include drawings of dogs, for example.) Approval by the state does not force a store to display or sell a particular beer; stores can choose for themselves.

Daniel Shelton, one of the brothers who owns the import company, says even if Maine reverses its decision — which state liquor-licensing supervisor Jeff Austin said had not happened as of Tuesday — the lawsuit will continue, to get a court to strike down the state’s rule, which Shelton says is “way too vague.”

In addition to Santa’s Butt porter, Maine regulators have banned sales of Les Sans Culottes (a French blonde ale), whose label features a detail from the 1830 Eugene Delacroix painting Liberty Leading the People. The symbolic figure of Liberty is a bare-breasted woman carrying a French flag and a rifle and bayonet. The painting hangs in the Louvre.

A third label to be rejected by the state, Rosé de Gambrinus (a raspberry-flavored Belgian lambic), features a painting specially commissioned by the brewery depicting Gambrinus, an unofficial patron of beers and brewing and legendary king of Flanders, with a naked woman on his lap (symbolizing beer, according to the lawsuit).

The state has yet to file a reply in court.

Friday, January 6, 2006

Armory arts center: South Portland's vacant landmark could be reborn as a cultural icon

published in the Portland Phoenix

A 25,000-square-foot building sits on just shy of three acres at the foot of the south end of the Casco Bay Bridge. Vacant since 1996, the former South Portland armory remains in limbo. its owner, the moribund Museum of Glass and Ceramics, declared bankruptcy last year, before ever moving in.

Even a wealthy real-estate developer, Cape Elizabeth's Greg Boulos, a partner in the Boulos Company, one of Maine's largest development firms, last month withdrew an offer to buy the building. He had not expressed any specific plans for the building.

But the armory would be the perfect spot for a multi-disciplinary arts center, with room for a performance-and-exhibition space, soundproof rehearsal rooms, photo darkrooms, small offices for business activities, and ample parking.

All of those things are needed in greater Portland, and an arts-oriented developer was interested enough to want to tour the building after hearing the idea.


The building is in a landmark position at the entrance to South Portland, an area used to lots of traffic, where attracting more wouldn't be a real problem.

There is room for parking on the armory property, as well as on an adjoining lot owned by Central Maine Power (CMP).

John Carroll, CMP's manager of communications and company relations, said the company had been in talks with the museum about using some of CMP's land — a transmission corridor under high-tension power lines — as a parking area. Carroll said the company would be "open to" discussing a similar arrangement with another owner of the building.

But the real possibilities are inside.

The building's formal entryway, with three doors facing the bridge, is a beautiful space, with wood paneling and brick features reminiscent of government buildings of the early 1940s — when public spaces still sported some degree of grandeur in addition to cheap functionality.

Paint flakes and pieces of broken drop-ceiling tile crunch underfoot in the lobby, a bright space on a rainy day, even with no overhead lights.

Facing the entrance is a reception-style office, with a sliding glass window and side door. To the left is a large space with two offices and a storage area. To the right is a three-office suite with a storage room. (On the wall in one of this suite's offices is a phone jack labeled in red "Hot Line President.")

A hallway runs the width of the building, with small offices and what is now storage space off of it. With a little plumbing, the windowless storage rooms would be excellent — and roomy — darkrooms.

Upstairs is another pair of office suites, with funky skylights in the ceiling. Across the hall are two viewing galleries, long rooms with windows overlooking the building's star attraction: a full-size basketball court, 150 feet long and 100 feet wide, with a double-height ceiling complete with steel beams for rafters.

On each side of the ground-floor entrance to the court are storage areas or small offices.

And running the length of the court on both sides, behind massive garage-type doors, are equipment bays once used by the National Guard to service their vehicles. There are storage spots here and smaller offices, like parts desks at a car dealer.

A group of arts organizations, or individual artists, all looking for office space, gallery or performance space, or even just a conference room to hold business meetings, could get together to purchase the building. Each of them could have some office space, sharing the gymnasium area, which could be easily refitted into a performance space with shared lighting and technical equipment. A part of the gym could be made into a conference room, or even a small gallery for visual arts. The equipment bays could be walled off and made into music-rehearsal spaces.

The common spaces could also be made available for rental by other groups, on a shared-revenue model or even at a flat fee, to help generate revenue.


Starting with the obvious, the entire building could use a floor-to-ceiling paint job.

There are a couple of small bathrooms, but nothing on the scale of what would be needed to serve a performance audience. There no elevator to the second floor. And there is no central heating-system — for some reason the National Guard took it when they left.

But the armory building could be had for $20 a square foot — a bargain-basement deal if ever there was one. The property has outstanding mortgages and taxes due totaling right around $615,000. It is valued at $600,000 in the museum's bankruptcy filing, though the city assessor's office rates it at $515,400.

Boulos had offered $625,000, but pulled out after failing to get an extension to a 45-day deal, according to bankruptcy trustee William Howison, who has control of the building until it is sold. Howison said Boulos wanted eight months to get permits to develop the property.

"He wanted more time and I wasn't willing to agree to it" because a Chapter-7 bankruptcy is supposed to be a relatively quick liquidation of assets, rather than a months-long process, Howison said. Boulos was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Fred W. Bopp III, an attorney with Perkins Thompson who is representing Howison, said the deal should at minimum pay off the mortgages and taxes, and ideally would generate some additional income to pay off other creditors the museum has.

"We are still trying to see if we can put together a sale that makes sense," Bopp said. Neither he nor Howison would talk about how much interest, if any, the building has generated. No offers other than Boulos's have been filed with the bankruptcy court.

What could be done with the building "depends on how much money you have," Howison said. The building is zoned as a residential property, allowing no more than four housing units per acre, or a church, school, museum, or municipal building. It also could allow "recreational or community activity buildings" if they were run as non-profit organizations.

For certain uses, a buyer might need to get a zoning change or variance from the city, though the property is in a high-traffic area next to the fire and police station and across Broadway from a busy shopping area.

The zoning has limited "somewhat" interest from developers, Howison said.

If he cannot sell the building, he will have to get the mortgagors to accept less than their full investment as repayment, or let them foreclose and perhaps auction the building.


The amount of money involved is a good fit, according to David Shorette, treasurer of the Children's Theatre of Maine, which offered roughly $800,000 for a building in Westbrook last year.

"We'd like to buy a building" and "$600,000 seems quite doable," he said. "I think the location is perfect," though it may have asbestos, which could increase the cost of renovations.

Shorette said there is a need for more room for artists to work and practice. His wife is a dancer, and groups with which she performs are always trying to find rehearsal space and end up changing locations and times often to make schedules work.

The city of South Portland has been interested in the building for a decade. It offering $250,000 for the armory to the state in 1996, then upped its offer to $350,000 in 2001. The city is considering whether to make another offer now.

According to South Portland city attorney Mary Kahl, the armory building has been discussed as a possible new home for the public-works department or for offices for South Portland's city-hall, both of which agencies are slated for new facilities or relocation.

South Portland mayor Maxine Beecher said one problem could be parking — though a CMP agreement could help — and another could be access, because the site is right off a busy intersection with traffic-control islands preventing people from turning into it when heading west on Broadway.

She said there has been talk of housing small art galleries in the building, but zoning restrictions were an unknown factor (though such use might be allowed if the building was owned by a non-profit group).

"I always wanted us to have it" for the city, she said, with the idea of keeping a part of it — including the picturesque front facade — and possibly selling a portion of the property.

Beecher said she liked the idea of drawing more artists to the city and said the schools might be able to get more involved with professional artists and creators.

Artists are looking for more space.

An idea like this one has already been "floated about," according to Jessica Tomlinson, who is active in several capacities in the arts community, including as director of public relations at Maine College of Art, a board member at the Portland Arts and Cultural Alliance, a member of Governor John Baldacci's council on the creative economy, and a member of the Maine Arts Commission.

"Portland is just getting really pricey," which means "So-Po starts becoming really attractive," she said. A lot of people go to restaurants and beaches in South Portland, and "I think we're going to see more shifting" of arts as well.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to the armory, Tomlinson said.

"It's located in the middle of a massive intersection," which could be a problem for some tenants seeking quieter quarters.

Tomlinson said the building's purchase price is not a real obstacle, but the costs of renovation could be prohibitive.

The building could meet many needs, however. "We still need a black-box theater in this town," and more dance space and rehearsal space would be snapped up quickly, she projected.

Such a building could allow for the "consolidation of resources" — e.g. sharing the cost of a receptionist and even a staff accountant — and owning a building could provide artists with better security for their businesses, she said. "We're all struggling alone in similar ways" trying to protect investments and provide for the future, she said.

Tomlinson liked the idea if the offices were handled on a condominium-style plan, where artists or groups owned their own office space and then paid monthly fees to handle upkeep of the building's common spaces.

She foresaw some trouble with the actual organization of such a project. "Arts organizations have incredible personalities and needs" but those sometimes stand in the way of organizing, she said. Turning the space into a working artist's center would require leadership, including "a small core committed group of individuals" plus some "lightning rods" who have the skills to handle complex tasks like funding and permitting.

"Portland really lacks those true arts champions-slash-heroes," she said. "All the ingredients are here," but "we just really need a cook."

Tomlinson said she is "looking for some new energy" from people who have done this sort of thing before in other places.

Tanja Hollander, one of the organizers of the Bakery Photographic Collective, shares Tomlinson's concern about organization.

"Organizing artists is one of the hardest things to do," she said. "Everybody has their own ideas."

The Bakery group, of about 20 people, have "talked about buying something," but that's years in the future if at all, she said. The group now rents space in a Pleasant Street building.

Hollander also liked the condo-style idea, where "everybody owns their own studio." That, she said, would free up time for artists to be artists, rather than building administrators and contractors.

"In theory, I think it's a great idea. In practice I don't know how that would work," especially if the artists didn't know each other going in, she said.

"I think that artists should really think about owning their studios," though she admitted that because of property costs and artists' income, "a lot of artists don't think that they can buy anything."


Mike Levine of Acorn Productions made a brief business model for a similar idea a couple of years back, but didn't get very far because financing was too big a challenge for him to handle with his other commitments.

"There is a lot of interest in the arts community," he said, including from groups without office, performance, and rehearsal space.

His bigger question was "do you build the collaborations first ... or do you just sort of take the plunge," what he called the "Field of Dreams" approach, where a person or group goes out and creates an artists center and then hopes the artists come.

Levine has decided for himself that he will seek a smaller rehearsal space for Acorn, and then see if other groups or artists want to collaborate and potentially share it.

But in his research for the business plan, he found artists and musicians and others were already paying between $40,000 and $50,000 a year in rent for creative space. For him that meant enough money to rent or buy about 1500 square feet in Portland, covering not just rent but also utilities, maintenance, and other overhead, including possibly a skeleton staff.

Such a project would "need someone who's willing to be a tireless exhorter." Levine expressed willingness to be involved "but not as the lead person."

He said he had also considered partnering with a retail business such as a bar or a coffee shop to generate consistent foot traffic.

His estimates did not include a capital campaign, which he said would be made harder if the building — like the armory — did not have an official designation as a historic building. He said grants for the St. Lawrence Arts Center were easier to come by because the group there was not only creating an art space, but was restoring a dilapidated historic site.

Levine warned that "the bigger the space, the harder the project is to pull off," and said his research into similar ideas showed "the only successful ones were where the city bought the building and leased it to the non-profits for a dollar a year." That freed up rental income for paying off construction loans to refit the building.

"If the city of South Portland wants to do that, I'm sure there would be a lot of interested parties," he said.

The city may be interested, but there is a commercial developer also curious about the idea.

Charlie Hewitt, a painter, printer, and sculptor born in Brunswick and now back in Maine after many years in New York City, estimated a group would need to collect $150,000 for a down payment and come up with $4000 to $5000 for mortgage payments every month. Hewitt is now at work developing high-end artists' live-work condos on Congress Street, and said that model would not be profitable given the space and condition of the armory building.

But as a group of shared offices with a large common space — even split up to handle several uses — the armory model could work, he said.

The equipment bays off to the side could be rented or even sold as storage spaces, potentially making up the whole down-payment amount.

Some organization with some good backing would need to hold the mortgage, Hewitt said. A group of organizations working together could get their separate backers each to put up some small portion of the money, and would still generate plenty of capital, he said.

Sharing the monthly costs among several groups could mean as many as 12 organizations or artists paying between $300 and $400 a month to own and maintain their own spaces.

"That much space could create a whole cultural scene," possibly bringing architects and other independent professionals into closer proximity with working artists, he said.

The large gym could be split into three black-box theaters, sharing lights and sound equipment, running in repertory. There would also be room for an 800- or 1000-square-foot gallery for visual arts, as well as a conference room, he estimated.

Hewitt liked the idea so much he considered taking the lead on the project, and wanted to see the building's interior.

"It's a good old-fashioned artist's idea that's going to be challenging everybody to use it," he said.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Nursing home makes changes after death

Published in the Current

Improvements have been made at the Viking Community Nursing Home – where an Alzheimer’s patient wandered off and died earlier this month – but the facility is still being fined for what the state calls “substandard” care.

The finding of “immediate jeopardy” has been lifted, according to Helen Mulligan, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. But not all the problems have been fixed.

“The facility isn’t in total compliance,” Mulligan said. It is considered to be providing “substandard quality of care,” because of problems with record keeping and security, she said.

As a result, Viking is being fined $350 per day from Aug. 23, and is not eligible for Medicare payments for new admissions, she said. If the nursing home does not fix the problems, Mulligan said, its Medicare payment
agreement for existing patients will be terminated Feb. 13, 2003.

The nursing home remains in violation of federal requirements to prohibit “mistreatment, neglect and abuse of residents and misappropriation of resident property,” and to complete “a comprehensive care plan within seven days” of patient needs assessment, Mulligan said.

The Viking is the subject of state and federal scrutiny following the Aug. 9 death of Shirley Sayre, 77, who wandered out of a secure unit at the Viking and drowned in a culvert across Scott Dyer Road.

An initial investigation by state regulators found the nursing home placed several residents in “immediate jeopardy.” A $3,050 fine per day was levied Aug. 12 and remained in place until Aug. 22, requiring the Viking to pay$33,550 for that infraction.

Corrections plan accepted
Viking sent a plan of corrections to the state Department of Human Services Aug. 22, according to department spokesman Newell Augur. It has been accepted, after some minor revisions, he said.

State inspectors paid a surprise visit to the Viking the following day. “It wouldn’t have made any sense for us to go in before they’d filed a plan of corrections,” Augur said. Once a plan had been filed, though, the state wanted to check on things quickly, especially given the prospect of the Viking losing federal funding without a successful inspection, he said.

Door locks and alarms that had been malfunctioning during the Aug. 12 investigation had been fixed by the end of that day, and remained functional Aug. 23, Augur said. Individual care plans had been updated by Aug. 23, Augur said, but that’s not quite enough.

“They have completed the care plans for all the patients in the facility,” he said. “They haven’t proven to us that they can set up a system” to prevent future care plans from being incomplete.

Augur said the plan of corrections provides a strategy for doing just that, but it has not been tested yet.

Duane Rancourt, administrator at the Viking, said all the necessary corrections have been made and he is waiting for word from regulators that will allow the nursing home to admit new patients.

The biggest adjustment for staff and visitors is the keypad to get in and out of the building, he said. The code to the keypad is posted at the door, but he said that doesn’t give dementia patients an opportunity to get out because “they have a hard time with sequential things.”

Rancourt and the Viking staff also are taking advantage of a temporary slowdown in business to relocate the Medicare unit to the long-term care unit, a change that he had planned for some time, he said.

And despite regulatory criticism and scrutiny, the Viking is getting support from many family members of current and former patients.

Community support
One family member of a recent Viking Community patient, who asked not to be identified, told the Current that he was satisfied with what he called “excellent care” from Viking staff. He also said, “Alzheimer’s can strike anybody, and it always ends in death.” He went on to express support for the staff of the Viking, whom he said were “doing the best they can” dealing with patients with challenging conditions.

Selvin Hirshon, whose wife was an Alzheimer’s patient at the Viking for close to seven years before her death in February, said he strongly supports the Viking.

“I think it’s one of the best nursing homes” in the area, he said. Before moving his wife into the Viking, he said, he looked at “at least half a dozen nursing homes around here” and chose the Viking. “I think very highly of it," he said.

Hirshon said he has spoken with other family members of Viking residents who feel similarly. He said he knows a number of the staff, too, after spending “300 days a year for nearly seven years” visiting his wife. He said the staff and administration, including administrator Rancourt, “go out of their way” to be friendly to residents and to make it a nice place to live and work.

“I would give it a very high rating,” Hirshon said.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Woman leaves nursing home, dies

Published in the Current

State investigators have finished an inquiry into the death of a Cape Elizabeth woman who walked out of a secure area at the Viking Community nursing home and drowned in a culvert just down the street. A report is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks.

Shirley Sayre, 77, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, had lived in Portland growing up, and worked in Portland and South Portland. She attended local Baptist churches and participated in various church activities, including teaching Sunday school for many years.

She was a resident of the Viking Community nursing home on Scott Dyer Road, and was living in a secure area of that facility, used to house and care for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, when she somehow got out.

Her family has declined comment on the investigation.

At Sayre’s funeral, her son, Stuart, who also lives in Cape Elizabeth, said his mother was “a wonderful mother who was always there for me.” He remembered her as a patient mother, who was loving and insightful.

He said he confided in her about personal issues, and also enjoyed discussing a wide variety of topics with her. He expressed great gratitude to her for teaching him to read and to love reading and writing. At one time, he said, she was frustrated because she had read through entire sections of the libraries in Portland, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth.

Shirley Sayre’s sister, Charlotte Russell of South Portland, remembered taking trips with Shirley and their friends, and enjoying each other’s company while reading or in the company of family, friends and loved ones.

Stuart expressed sorrow at not knowing when to say goodbye to his mother, as she entered “her deep descent into the mind-robbing illness named Alzheimer’s. ”

Sayre was put to bed just before 11 p.m., Aug. 8, according to an appeal for help sent to local media outlets by the Cape Elizabeth Police Department the following morning.

A bed check a short time later revealed that she was not in her bed, and a subsequent check of the grounds failed to locate her.

Cape police were notified Sayre was missing at 12:57 a.m., according to dispatch records, and a search began. She was found dead just after 9 a.m., Aug. 9, in a culvert on Scott Dyer Road.

The search involved members of the Cape fire, rescue and police departments, as well as the WET team, Maine Warden Service and the Maine State Police.

Fire Chief Philip McGouldrick, who coordinates search and rescue efforts in the town, said searchers were out all night. They looked in the stream behind the Viking, and along roads and trails near the nursing home.

McGouldrick said searchers kept to existing paths because a police dog from South Portland was working to sniff out where Sayre was, and they didn’t want to contaminate the dog’s search area with lots of human scent.

“We weren’t getting into the woods because we didn’t want to confuse the dog,” McGouldrick said.

Firefighters also used thermal imaging cameras, usually used to help them find concealed areas that are still burning in building fires. In this case, McGouldrick said, they would show a warm person as distinct from surrounding vegetation or buildings, which would be cooler.

In the morning, searchers hadn’t found anything, and regrouped to do a visual search of the area.

Sayre’s body was found by a state warden, floating face-down in a pool of water in the culvert, McGouldrick said. The state medical examiner determined that the death was caused by drowning.

And though searchers had passed by the location several times during the night, he said it would have been hard to spot in the dark.

“They barely saw her in the daytime,” McGouldrick said.

Sayre’s daughter-in-law, Lynne Sayre, said the family “could not say enough” to thank the people who searched all night. “We are so moved,” she said, “by their compassion and passion for what they do.”

Doreen Hunt, the acting administrator at the Viking, refused to comment, saying there was an investigation going on about the incident. On Aug. 9, Hunt faxed a short statement to local media outlets that said Sayre apparently wandered off a secure unit and out of the building unnoticed by staff.”

Newell Augur, a spokesman for the Department of Human Services, said the agency’s investigation was routine in all cases of what he called “elopement,” in which a patient in a secure area of a nursing home leaves without the knowledge of the staff.

He said that regular inspection visits to the Viking Community earlier in the year had turned up what he called “the normal amount of deficiencies” for a nursing home of its size. And while there was a shortcoming in the number of day staff for each patient, Augur said the deficiency was “not alarming” and had not included problems with patient supervision by nighttime staff.

McGouldrick said the Viking’s secure areas are locked by keypad access. Doors won’t open without people punching in the correct code, he said. McGouldrick also said it may never be known exactly how Sayre got out of the building.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

House near school billed as sex club

Published in the Current; co-written with Brendan Moran

A house next to the Blue Point Elementary School on Pine Point Road in Scarborough was advertising itself on the Web as a swingers club known as Club Vision until February, when the owners of the home and police found out about it.

Once the club closed, it began using its web site to encourage patrons to use other clubs in the area, including another home-based club called Wildflower’s in Scarborough and a commercial lounge in Lewiston.

The owners of the home at 170 Pine Point Road, Philip and Kathleen McKay, have filed eviction proceedings against the former tenants, identified as Adam Goodwin and Jen Kole, who have moved out. According to court documents, no one appeared on behalf of the tenants to contest the eviction. The Current was unable to find phone numbers for Goodwin and Kole, who have apparently moved out of Scarborough. A toll-free number listed on the web site was disconnected. An e-mail to an address on the site didn’t get a reply.

Police began investigating activity at the home after the McKays reported it to them. They later dropped the investigation after the tenants moved out.

Police Chief Robert Moulton said his department would only be interested in possible criminal activity, such as the illegal sale of liquor or prostitution, and none was found. “We haven’t had any information come forward that there was any big violations,” he said.

Activity occurred at night, and the principal of the Blue Point School, Susan Helms, said she didn’t know anything about the house next door and hadn’t heard any complaints from parents.

The police and owners were unaware of a web site devoted to the club,, and another swingers club in Scarborough that the site refers to. Swinging is commonly known as partner swapping.

The site, which is registered to Goodwin, says the club is closed and looking for a new location to expand. It says the club plans to re-open in late spring. While the club was closed, the site recommended patrons go to another club in Scarborough known as Wildflower’s and a club in Lewiston.

E-mails on an Internet group for swingers indicated Wildflower’s was located at an address on Broadturn Road. But a woman who answered the door at the residence denied the home was being used as a swingers club.

The club in Lewiston and the two clubs in Scarborough are the only clubs in Southern Maine, according to e-mails on Internet groups for swingers.

According to its website, “Club Vision is Maine’s premier couples club, located near Portland.”

The web site reads, “We are a full on premises club that is very discreet and professional. We are a BYOB club, so you don’t have to worry about expensive drink prices. There will be a hot and cold buffet served,
non-alcoholic drinks will be provided.”

It also cautions guests to be courteous and understand they have the right to say “no” at any time. “Do not allow yourself to become sexually involved with anybody that you are not interested in. You are in the lifestyle to enjoy yourself, so only do what you want, when you want and with whom you want.” The site goes on to advertise a hot tub, pool table, private rooms and a lounge area.

The McKays, who live in New Hampshire, confirmed that they found out about the swingers club from a neighbor and alerted police.

But they declined to comment because of their ongoing eviction suit, which was filed on Feb. 20.

The suit alleges Goodwin and Kole, who moved into the house in October, broke the rental agreement by making unauthorized alterations to the house and running a business in the home.

According to court documents, Goodwin and Kole allegedly installed a gas heating system, new flooring and a hot tub in the garage.

In the McKays’ complaint they allege, “Defendants have breached Maine law and local ordinance by construction of alterations to the premises and the conduct of a business in the premises…Defendants are operating a nightclub/singles bar and facility in the home,” the suit read.

A neighbor who asked not to be identified said he had heard the neighbors working in the garage late at night and saw them bringing furniture in and out of the house. He never met Goodwin or Kole and said he assumed they had made arrangements with the landlord to renovate the house.

During the fall and winter, he said the tenants were throwing parties four or five nights a week. He would often hear music coming from the home until late at night. One night during the winter, he looked out the window and saw two women in negligees carrying what looked like two bottles of wine walking from the garage to the house. “They weren’t going to bake cookies. That was for sure,” he said.

The Current first learned of neighborhood concerns when a woman who identified herself as the mother of a Blue Point Elementary School student called to say there was a swingers club being operated next to the school.

Robert McGinley, the founder of the National Swing Club Association, estimated there are 400 active swing clubs and many more private homes that have swinging parties nationally. He also estimated there are 10,000 swinging couples in the U.S. The association defines swinging as sexual contact with someone other than a person’s partner or spouse, with that partner’s consent.

“The lifestyle is a rapidly emerging economic powerhouse,” said McGinley, with events like the July 2001 Annual Lifestyles Convention in Las Vegas, which was sponsored by major resorts and airlines.

“It attracts couples that really have it together as a relationship,” said McGinley, who also has a degree in the psychology of human sexuality.

Partners who swing are typically open and honest with each other, which is “not typical of a so-called traditional marriage.”

“Swinging is not just sex. It’s the freedom to be with people you enjoy,” he added.

Thursday, October 4, 2001

Villages of Scarborough: Pine Point - Village by the sea weathers change

Published in the Current

Pine Point is a village in balance, filled with the quiet tension between the land and the sea, inhabited by people who come and go with the tides and the seasons.

Lobstering and clamming have long been livelihoods in Pine Point. But for 120 years, tourism has been the business to be in, if you live in the Point. And now that’s changing too, as houses are rebuilt or winterized, ready for year-round residents.

And still, they that go down to the sea in boats are all around Pine Point. They’re a quiet lot, prone to pointing at their friends when you ask a question, but they’re personable enough, even friendly, if you aren’t too obvious about being from away.

Most of today’s lobstermen don’t live in Pine Point, though their forefathers, and even their fathers, did.

It has become “a nice place to live,” and property values are through the roof.

“They priced us out of here,” said lobsterman Robbie Lothrop. Born and brought up on the sandbar called Pine Point, he now lives “on the hill,” across the mouth of Jones Creek, and rents his house out on the Point.

His 50-by-70-foot lot, where the house takes up nearly all the land, has some pretty steep property taxes, he said. “The taxes on that are three grand.”

His Cape-style house on three-quarters of an acre on the hill has just about the same taxes. Many lobstermen have found the same situation.

“Most of us are up on the hill,” Lothrop said. He doesn’t think there are any working lobstermen who still live on the Point.

In his 57 years, 40 of which he has spent lobstering, he has seen a lot of changes. He points at a parking lot filled with sea gulls and a row of houses behind them.

“That was all sand dunes,” he said, remembering the ditches he and his friends used to play in among the sandy hillocks where the lot is now. Drawing a big circle with his hands, he shows where a tide pool once was.

Wind can’t blow people away
Bill Bayley is another Pine Point resident, who has been, he said, “lucky enough to get to stay” as many of his neighbors left for more affordable areas. He is the third generation of his family to run Bayley’s Lobster Pound, and his daughter works with him.

“We’ve been selling seafood on this location — the same family — for 86 or 87 years,” he said.

His grandfather came to Pine Point in 1915 with his wife and infant son, Bill’s father. The young family had been looking for a place to settle near the sea. From the train, Bill’s grandfather saw the spit of land and decided to live there.

Back then, it wasn’t the nice place to live it has become. Separated from the mainland by the marsh and the creek until the 1880s, it wasn’t exactly prime real estate even in the early 20th century . When the trains came by in the 1850s, the railroad company had to build a road out to the Point. Almost immediately it became a summer resort. But people who spent the winter were still scarce.

The wind was the problem. Ripping out of the north in winter, it was known to tear roofs apart and make life generally miserable. The wind hasn’t changed, but people now stay the winter with better shelter, Bayley said.

“They didn’t have the types of houses they have now,” he said. But the wind still blows, and though the year-rounders love the summer, Bayley said, “We pay for it in the winter.”

Bayley had thought his third-generation link was as far back as his family went in Pine Point, but when looking over old photos and family records, he learned that his grandfather’s grandfather was from Pine Point, and had lived right in the house still standing next door to the Lobster Pound.

It was a surprise to Bayley: “One of the first houses built down here is right in the parking lot.”

Bayley, like Lothrop, said economics have played a role in changing the community.

“A lot of the people that were native to this place have had to leave,” Bayley said, citing costs of housing and property taxes. But now the seasonal folks are staying longer and even moving to the Point.

“It’s not so much summer people,” Bayley said. And even the summer influx is different from the seasonal invasions other Maine coastal communities see.

“A lot of our folks aren’t quite tourists,” Bayley said. “Families have been coming here for generations and generations, and not just one or two.”

“New arrivals” not new
Mary Boutin is one of those seasonal visitors. She’s been coming to the Point since she was six months old; she’s now in her early 80s and lives both in Pine Point — Pillsbury Shores, to be exact — and in Lewiston.

The Pillsbury Shores neighborhood is friendly and low-key, too, but since homes were built on sea grass, there have been changes, too.

The days of unlocked doors, while mostly over, aren’t too far gone.

“Everybody has a key to everybody else’s house,” Boutin said. “It’s very close-knit down here.”

Talking to folks in Pine Point, whether they’re life-long residents, seasonal visitors or relative newcomers, it’s clear that everyone is related to somebody else who has, or had, a house down here. Explaining who a neighbor is involves a crash course in local genealogy.

Those ties are part of why things change slowly here. Old sand footpaths are closed by new owners, who realize over time that they can’t keep the fishermen and beachgoers
from using the only route to the beach they’ve ever known.

The sea changes things too, moving sandbars and waterlines, allowing
dune grass to grow.

“It’s amazing how much the sand has grown up in sea grasses,” Boutin said.

Houses have changed, too. People buy homes and expand them or even tear them down to build anew.

“I would love to see the houses retain what I think is the character of ‘by the seashore,’” Boutin said. “(Now) we have these very palatial places.”

Some of the house turnovers are estate sales, by children selling their parents’ former home. The next generation, Boutin said, sometimes thinks “it’s better to have the money than the responsibility.”

Another big change is how people communicate on the Point. It used to be kids yelling back and forth, or a few minutes of walking back to the house. Now beachgoers, especially parents, have two-way radios and cellular phones to keep tabs on things back at the house.

But all told, whether it’s partying on a sandbar or sitting outside on a summer’s evening listening to poetry read aloud by a friend, “We’re very happy down in this neck of the woods,” Boutin said. “We have a wonderful life down here.”

Expanding the village
But what qualifies as “down here,” to folks who live on the Point, has changed too.

“Pine Point was from here to the corner,” Bayley said, standing inside his business. “Up above the corner was Grand Beach. Across the marsh and up the hill was Blue Point.”

Now there’s a Pine Point Nursing Home on Pine Point Road, long before any signs saying “Blue Point.” But Pine Point hasn’t grown too much. It’s moved through the roundabout, what Bayley called “the corner” and up to the bridge over the
railroad tracks. And the stretch that was called Grand Beach, over to the Old Orchard Beach town line, is part of Pine Point now too. But the heart of Pine Point is still the sandy spit between Pillsbury Shores and the corner.

The old gathering place, Conroy’s Garage, has ceased to play its central role in the village, since the death of its owner, Jack Conroy, Bayley said.

“We were really a small, tight-knit community for years,” Bayley said, talking of knowing everyone in town and being able to walk into any house — they were all unlocked.

“Now it’s changed quite a bit.”

There aren’t that many kids around now, either, he said. “There are a few, but not like there used to be.”

The folks who move away don’t go far, Bayley said. “They’re all trying to stay where they can at least see it. It’s kind of difficult to move away.”

And even if it’s hard to move away, those property values have made it hard to stay.

“There’s more people all the time and there’s only just so much land on the water,” Bayley said.

Balance is important between the forces at work in Pine Point, the natives and the newcomers, the sea and the land, and even the wind and the buildings.

But nothing is permanent, Bayley said, especially on a small strip of sand sticking into the ocean.

“You can’t own it; you can only borrow it.”