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Scarborough residents seek to buy former sludge dump

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Scarborough residents seek to buy former sludge dump

SCARBOROUGH — A Tibbetts Road couple has expressed interest in buying a portion of a former sludge dumping ground owned by the town.

Dennis and Susan Hall own 33 Tibbetts Road, the property that abuts the 69-acre lot that borders Saco. In a May 28 letter to the town, the Halls' attorney, Peter Hatem, indicated the Halls had no plan to develop the property, but would like it for personal use that might include pasturing horses and haying the fields as well as possibly one single-family house lot for their son.

Under the proposal, the town would retain title to a strip of land that borders the Nonesuch River.

The section of the property that had been a dumping site was closed years ago and capped off, Town Manager Tom Hall said. These days, despite Dennis Hall's attempts to keep them off, ATV and dirt bike users have chewed up much of the fields. According to the attorney's letter, the Halls would be amenable to allowing public access for specified uses, but would prohibit "other specified uses such as ATV and certain other motorized uses."

While the majority of town councilors at their last meeting appeared to be in favor of the sale, Councilor Karen D'Andrea recommended proceeding with caution because of potential liability from possible pollutants on the property.

"I still don't feel like we could give it a green light until we look at those issues," D'Andrea said in a phone interview. "I called the (Maine Department of Environmental Protection) and they couldn't find almost anything related to that site, which is very peculiar to me. Considering what was dumped out there and how it was dumped, there's got to be something."

But some people have another concern. Even though the town would continue to own the stretch along the Nonesuch River, D'Andrea and others who have walked the property think the town should consider holding on to the entire parcel as open space.

"Here's a piece of property the land trust wouldn't even have to buy," D'Andrea said. "It's another gem; this piece is just gorgeous."

Former Scarborough Land Conservation Trust  member Laurene Swaney said the property is a destination site for bird watchers and added that if retained by the town, it could also be used for horse trails, cross-country skiing and possibly Community Services programming. She also said the property is important as part of the largest fresh watershed for the marsh.

But the town manager said he was encouraged by the Halls' willingness to keep the property open.

"Dennis (Hall) has taken a real liking to this property and taken a stewardship role to manage it," Tom Hall said. "If we can get the value of preserving open space without owning it, we've satisfied our needs."

And in a phone interview, Councilor Ron Ahlquist said he thought the sale of the property to the Halls is "a wonderful idea."

"We haven't taken care of it; it's become a very bad blight in this town," he said. "If it was up to me, I'd give the guy the land."

The Halls declined to comment.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.