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Topsham selectmen halt sale of town-owned lot

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Topsham selectmen halt sale of town-owned lot

TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Jan. 21 to halt the sale of a town-owned lot.

Bids for the 3.1-acre property, near Route 196 and Robert Hill Road and bordered by two gravel pits, were due by Dec. 30 and were originally going to be opened at the board’s Jan. 7 meeting, which was cancelled.

Town Manager Jim Ashe, who could not attend the meeting, explained in a Jan. 8 memo to the board that he had two concerns about the property: that it lacks a right-of-way and that the winning bidder might not legally be able to extract gravel from the site, because the town requires a 300-foot non-extraction buffer around the property line.

Due to the size of the lot, no gravel could be extracted, Selectman Don Russell pointed out. He said the matter would require more research and thought before the property is put out to bid again.

"Since most people interested in this property would want to extract gravel from it, our ordinance wouldn't allow it unless the abutters owned it," Ashe said.

He said on Monday that Maine Gravel abuts the lot on three sides, with railroad tracks on the fourth. Maine Gravel and Mark Ponziani, who has a construction company, were the two bidders.

Ashe said the town attorney agreed the town should not open the bids.

Selectman Sandra Consolini asked why she was not informed about the 300-foot buffer rule before the property went out to bid, and Chairman Ronald Riendeau responded that he didn't think any board members were aware of it in advance.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net