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CUMBERLAND — Discussions about moving compost and brush operations from the Public Works Department garage to land at Cumberland Fairgrounds drew concerned residents to Monday’s Town Council meeting.
The council did not act on the matter. It did approve forming a conservation easement around the nearly 38-acre town-owned Greely Woods property.
Moving the compost and brush facilities, and sand and salt sheds, from the town’s Drowne Road Public Works property has stirred debate in recent years. Residents of the newer Village Green development nearby have said they moved there expecting the town garage and affiliated operations would be closed.
The town has considered several relocation options, all of which have fallen through.
Skillin Road residents last September strongly opposed a site there, as did neighbors of a vacant area north of the Cumberland Fairgrounds, and one next to the Town Forest. Neighbor opposition in March helped sink a proposed site on town-owned land off Greely Road.
A member of the Cumberland Farmers Club approached the Town Council about building a compost pad on the Cumberland Fairgrounds property at 197 Blanchard Road, Councilor Shirley Storey-King said Monday.
The Cumberland Fairgrounds board expected Tuesday night to consider the town’s proposal to put composting there, Town Manager Bill Shane said. The full 100-member Farmers Club would also have to discuss the proposal, he noted.
With club support, the Town Council could vote June 3 to authorize Shane to work with the organization to develop a lease agreement, which the council would approve in a later meeting.
The town’s cost of leasing nearly 2 acres behind a horse barn off Bruce Hill Road could be a combination of money and services, Shane explained, like paving or winter plowing at the fairgrounds.
“A monetary value would be set for each and every service, so both parties would be protected,” he said.
The arrangement would be “to help them with their 2,500 cubic yards of horse manure that they generate, and our 2,500 yards of yard waste,” Shane said.
Meanwhile, the town has two potential sites on Middle Road where it could move the sand and salt sheds. Negotiations are underway, and “we hope to have something at the June meeting with one of those owners,” Shane said.
Josh Hilton of Bruce Hill Road was among fairgrounds neighbors who opposed the move. While he empathized with the Village Green residents who expected the Town Garage to be moved, and decried the noises and odors from that site, “to saddle other neighbors because of buyers’ regret isn’t fair,” he said.
Hilton expressed concern that if brush dump operations are moved to the fairgrounds, the sand and salt sheds would inevitably follow.
“There is no intent, ever, to move any sand or salt (operations) to West Cumberland,” Storey-King replied.
Half the compost the town was producing at its Public Works site was horse manure, she noted, adding the town does not seek to purchase land from the Farmers Club, but rather looks to “go into a mutual, beneficial agreement where we compost. It is an operation that exists from May until November, twice a week.”
Although there is an aquifer beneath part of the fairgrounds, the compost and brush operations would not be above it, Storey-King said.
The council later in the meeting unanimously approved a conservation easement for Greely Woods. The Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust will be the steward of the land.
The easement consists of three adjoining, undeveloped town-owned parcels, bordered by Greely Road Extension to the north and Sparhawk Lane to the east, near Main Street.
Greely Woods is intended to provide “low-impact outdoor recreation,” the easement states, which includes running, hiking, nature observation and study, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, picnicking, and snowmobiling on trails designated for that purpose.
The Town Council deemed the property difficult to develop, due to the presence of stream crossings and narrow access points, Shane said.
Of approximately 14,000 acres of land in Cumberland, more than 1,000 are in town-owned conservation easements, the manager noted.
Penny Asherman is president of the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust, which is the steward of the Greely Woods conservation easement.
The Cumberland Town Council on Monday approved the placement of Greely Woods – three undeveloped town-owned parcels that together comprise nearly 38 acres – into a conservation easement.