Cumberland council OKs moorings, pier partnership for former Payson property

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved a mooring area and pier partnership at the former Payson property.

The town purchased part of the property – now known as the Broad Cove Reserve – for $3 million last December from Portland-based developer Bateman Partners. Bateman earlier last year to bought roughly 100 acres from Spears Hill LLC, which represents the family of the late Marion Payson.

Three homes stand on the Payson property, and Bateman – functioning as 179 Foreside Road LLC, reflecting the property’s address – is building another seven, as allowed by a 1997 conservation easement.

The town’s purchase is aimed toward beach access and other use by the public, and includes 2,200 feet of shoreline and a 200-foot pier.

The council Monday supported a recommendation from the Coastal Waters Commission that 20 moorings – 10 for private use by the future homeowners association, and the other 10 for the public – be placed in their own respective mooring fields. Each mooring would swing around a 75-foot diameter.

“We haven’t had a lot of interest, and we don’t actually anticipate a lot, but we have some, and there’s no reason why, we feel, there shouldn’t be the creation of a public mooring area up there,” commission Chairman Lew Incze told the council. “Our proposal would be that we would grow slowly, and see what the demand is.”

He noted that Broad Cove is challenging to access, with broad and shallow shoulders, and that the extensive eelgrass beds also limit the mooring area.

To help limit the impact of eelgrass, boat traffic between the floats and mooring area would be restricted to a channel, marked by buoys, that would span the 1,500 feet between the floats and mooring area.

Two dingies would be available for homeowners and the public. The public dingies would be non-motorized, Town Manager Bill Shane has said.

The town will work with the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers to create the mooring area.

“We don’t see any reason why this couldn’t open in summer of 2016, if we make haste with the rest of our process,” Incze said, requesting that up to two floats be added to the existing pier next year. The council approved the request.

Incze called attention to an online poll at about replacing the pier. So far his group has received about 40 responses, and he hopes for more.

The council also voted to enter into a memorandum of understanding with 179 Foreside Road regarding a future new pier at Broad Cove.

“The pier-sharing agreement … is not a commitment to go ahead and build a pier with the sharing agreement in place,” Incze noted. “It is a discussion of whether we should go ahead with this partnership, should we build a pier.”

The pier is narrow and aging, and was lightly constructed for personal use, with a limited remaining life, he explained. Incze added that the structure could last another five years, barring no major storms or icing, according to a recent engineer report.

“If it were in good shape, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Incze said. “… New piers are expensive, and one option is to not have a pier there at all. But if you have a coastal property, there are lot of people who are interested in having a pier.”

Including floats, the cost of the new structure is estimated at $329,000, although town officials hope to reach a design with a price tag of less than $300,000.

“We won’t know the real number until we go to bid,” Shane said.

Through the agreement, 179 Foreside Road would pay half the cost up to $150,000, plus half the annual maintenance costs up to $5,000. Both the developer and the town would match capital reserve funding up to $5,000 for general maintenance repairs.

While the pier has steps leading up from the shore, to improve accessibility the replacement would have a ramp. The new structure would extend out about 170 feet, connecting to an 80-foot ramp leading down to the floats. It would be 6 feet wide, 2 feet more than the existing pier, geared more toward public usage.

Ted Chadbourne of Stockholm Drive said he has concerns about the shallow nature of the cove, noting pictures that show the pier’s float sitting on mud at low tide.

Incze acknowledged that “at lowest tide, you really can’t get a boat of any size in there, not even an engine; you would have to row. But still, even rowing, you can be hitting the bottom. … At the lowest tides, there will be times when it’ll be really awkward for an hour, maybe not usable.”

Chadbourne also asked if the town could vote on the cost of the pier, like it did at referendum for the property acquisition. Shane responded that the cost would typically be part of the overall budget, which the council approves. The item will be included in the town’s capital budget.

Permitting would run next year, pushing possible construction of the pier to the summer of 2017, Shane has said.

Meanwhile, the Payson heirs are suing the town and Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust over the town’s proposed use of the property. The land trust has been the property’s steward since the 1997 establishment of a conservation easement for the parcel.

The heirs claim that CCLT’s support of the town’s use “is a breach of its obligation as holder of the Conservation Easement,” and that the trust “has failed to enforce the terms” of the easement.

The family appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court after Maine Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills dismissed their case in May. The Cumberland Planning Board unanimously approved the town’s parking and access plan for Broad Cove in July, after which the heirs took the matter to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

After the ZBA in August upheld a determination by Cumberland’s code enforcement officer that the area was being utilized as a “municipal use” and allowed in that zone, the heirs on Aug. 20 filed an appeal with Maine Superior Court.

That matter is unlikely to be decided until early next year, and a final decision on the original action is unlikely before next summer, Town Attorney Ken Cole told the council in October.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The Cumberland Town Council on Monday approved recommendations for a mooring area and pier agreement at the former Payson property, now known as the Broad Cove Reserve. Moorings for public use are shown in front of the channel to the pier floats, while those designated for a future homeowners association neighbor the town’s portion to the north.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.