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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Dec. 10 is slated to vote on whether to buy more than 50 acres of undeveloped land for conservation and public access.
The acquisition, which could cost up to $414,000, would expand the town’s 221-acre Rines Forest property, most of which was purchased from Dale Rines in 2003 for $1.2 million. The town would buy this piece from Rines, too.
The Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust is seeking funds to reduce the town’s contribution, as it did in recent years with the Cumberland-North Yarmouth Knight’s Pond parcel, Town Manager Bill Shane said in an interview Nov. 29.
“We’d like to … see if we can reduce the town’s contribution to less than $300,000 on this parcel,” he said, adding that the land trust aims to cover the difference through grants and fundraising.
Rines has agreed to sell the additional 51.5 acres over three years, which would reduce the immediate financial impact on the town.
With the 2003 purchase, the town received a right of first refusal for the remaining acreage. Rines chose not to sell it at the time, but recently changed his mind, leading the Town Council in March to obtain an appraisal of the property.
The value came to $414,000, or just over $8,000 per acre, Shane said. The town’s right of first refusal expires in July 2019.
“Our intention has been, from the beginning, to actually have purchased the whole property,” Shane said.
Funds for the purchase would come from Cumberland’s land acquisition reserve, which has $320,000. Over three years, the estimated annual payment would be $148,900 at 5 percent interest, with interest ultimately totaling nearly $38,000, according to Shane.
Next week’s council decision may not be an easy one. Although the panel in March supported obtaining an appraisal, sentiments were mixed at the time about the actual property purchase.
Councilor George Turner noted he had “kind of pledged before this ever came up … that I wasn’t keen about the town owning any more land.” He pointed out that the town has other needs, like the many side roads it has to pave, but he would support the purchase if the land trust contributed two-thirds of the price.
About 6 percent of Cumberland’s approximately 14,000 acres is set aside for open space, Shane has said.
Councilor Shirley Storey-King suggested the town could look into selling some land in order to buy a new parcel.
The town has for years had the option to purchase the land, Councilor Bill Stiles said, noting, “in my examination before I got re-elected, I said this would be the only piece of property that I would be interested in the town buying. It completes this piece of property.”
The Cumberland Town Council on Dec. 10 will discuss whether to buy 51.5 acres of undeveloped property to expand Rines Forest.