Bangor Natural Gas Co. has sued the town of Frankfort over its nearly $15,000 property tax bill for land that hosts the Waldo County town’s section of a pipeline that carries gas between Searsport and Limestone.
The company claims that the pipeline is exempt from property taxes and that Frankfort is the only municipality to ever bill it for pipeline land.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Penobscot County Superior Court. It asks a judge to find that neither Frankfort nor any other municipality may collect property taxes for land on which the pipeline is located.
The Loring Development Corp. is not a plaintiff but was named an interested party in the lawsuit because it owns the pipeline and leases it to the gas company.
The town has not yet received a copy of the lawsuit, Town Clerk Heather McLaughlin said Friday.
The town’s attorney, William Kelly of Belfast, and Bangor Gas’ attorney, David Silk of Portland, did not immediately return requests for comments on Friday.
The town assessed the value of the pipeline land at $1.07 million and assessed a property tax of $14,850 for the tax year that began April 1, 2021, according to the complaint. In 2013, the town also sent the company a property tax bill, but its lawyers successfully disputed it without going to court.
The gas company claims that a 1976 ruling by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that said land on which the Maine Turnpike had been built was not subject to property taxes applies to the pipeline.
The town’s attorney allegedly has said that decision was wrongly decided and does not apply, according to Bangor Gas’ lawsuit.
A legal fight that ends up before the state supreme court would be costly for the town. Legal fees most likely would exceed the amount Frankfort would collect over several years in property taxes.
Frankfort, which had a population of 1,231 in 2020, is located along the Penobscot River between Winterport and Prospect.