CAPE ELIZABETH — The Cape Elizabeth Land Trust wants the town to contribute a third of the cost to purchase nearly 52 acres of land abutting the Robinson Woods Preserve.
At a Dec. 11 meeting, the Town Council unanimously voted to refer the request to a workshop next March, which will align with two workshops already scheduled on the town budget.
The council Monday also discussed proposed changes to the off-leash area in Fort Williams Park, authorized funds to enter an agreement with Good Group Decisions to moderate paper street discussions, and considered creation of a standing renewable energy committee.
CELT has received preliminary approval for $250,000 in grant funding for the acquisition from the Land for Maine’s Future program. The program is the state’s primary funding vehicle for conserving land for natural and recreational value.
To help pay for the remainder of the purchase price, which is set at $845,000, the trust has asked the town to pay almost $282,000.
In a letter to the council, CELT Executive Director Cynthia Krum said the town contributed $250,000 to the $750,000 purchase price of Robinson Woods I in December 2000, and again contributed $350,000 toward the $1.1 million purchase of Robinson Woods II in November 2012.
She added that the planned closing date of the latest purchase is Oct. 31, 2018, but there is a possibility to extend that to April 30, 2019, if “certain requirements are satisfied.”
According to the trust, purchasing the parcel of land on Shore Road, referred to as Robinson Woods III, will ensure its fields and trails are preserved and remain open to the public.
At nearly 200 acres, the extended preserve will create the largest area of conserved land in Cape Elizabeth.
Councilors postponed final approval of proposed amendments to the town’s dog ordinance to Jan. 8, pending clarification of wording that would ban off-leash dogs from multi-purpose athletic fields at Fort Williams Park between April 1 and Nov. 1.
Heidi Hansen, of Fowler Road, is the administrator of the Dogs of the Light Facebook page, which serves as a space for Fort Williams Park dog-walkers to communicate.
On Monday, Hansen said she is in favor of the ordinance change, but asked the council to clarify that the ban only applies to off-leash dogs, rather than on-leash dogs.
Roger Rioux of Bridlepath Way agreed with Hansen, but said he would like to see the multi-purpose fields off-limits to off-leash dogs throughout the year – a proposal endorsed by several councilors.
Fort Williams Park Committee Chairman Mark Russell said the proposed ordinance is a compromise between members who felt no dogs should have access to the fields and those who thought the town would have to find another place for dogs to play if access is removed.
In addition to the athletic fields ban, the ordinance would extend the park’s off-leash area by about 20 acres.
The council voted on Nov. 6 to hold a facilitated discussion on paper streets on Lighthouse Point Road, Surfside Avenue and Atlantic Place, and directed Town Manager Matt Sturgis to provide a proposal.
Sturgis recommended hiring Good Group Decisions to moderate the discussions and authorizing up to $2,500 from the town’s Special Committees account to fund the recommendation.
“The goal for this session would be to identify areas of agreement, disagreement, and negotiation,” Sturgis said. “The desire would be that all interested parties come to at least one of the sessions so all perspectives would be represented.”
Sturgis added that he has spoken with some parties involved in the discussion who have indicated that they are not interested in taking part in this type of forum, which he called “concerning.”
Councilor Chris Straw asked that all councilors who would appear to have a conflict of interest in the paper streets discussion disclose those and that the council vote to recuse them.
Councilors Sara Lennon, Valerie Randall, and Caitlin Jordan agreed that conflict disclosures have nothing to with the motion at hand, which was hiring a discussion facilitator.
A motion to authorize the agreement with Good Group Decisions was approved unanimously. Sturgis said the plan is to begin discussions in Febuary 2018.
A standing renewable energy committee would have five members, with three-year terms. Their duties would be to make recommendations to the council for advancing the town’s long-term environmental sustainability goals, implementing sustainable energy options, explore energy cost savings, and promote and educate the public on sustainable energy efforts and opportunities.
Councilor Patricia Jordan said the objective of the committee should be broadened, more explicit and not use “nebulous terms.”
“The work of the committee moved us in the right direction, but what we may want to do is step back at the purpose and objectives of the committee,” Jordan said.
Councilor Jamie Garvin moved to send the recommendation back to the Ordinance Committee, which was approved unanimously.
“There’s no rush on this,” he said. “Let’s get this right, not fast.”