Falmouth awaits grant to complete land purchase

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council unanimously agreed to spend $6,400 to purchase more than 40 acres of land around Highland Lake.

The council Monday also agreed to appropriate nearly $36,000 from the Route 1 North tax increment financing district for a concept plan for redeveloping the area.

The 43-acre parcel between Mast Road and Highland Lake has around 15 acres of wetlands, with a gravel road built in 1976. The parcel also has 700 feet of shoreline on Highland Lake and around 2,200 feet of frontage on Suckfish Brook. The seller is Claire Langlois, acting as personal representative for the estate of Patricia McDermott.

Town Manager Nathan Poore said the total cost of obtaining the property would be just under $353,000. But most of the funds are expected to come from two grants.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has already awarded the town $95,000 to remove the gravel road and restore the emergent wetland. The town has also applied for a grant of around $245,000 from the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program’s Mitigation Fund; Open Space Ombudsman Bob Shafto said the grant is technically still in the application stage.

Shafto said he is confident the town will rank high in the application process, but said it is not a given. The agreement to purchase the parcel is contingent on that grant coming through. A $10,000 deposit for an exclusive option to purchase the property is refundable if that grant does not come through.

The parcel will be permanently protected by a conservation easement granted to the Falmouth Land Trust. Shafto said there are no plans to put in trails, which would come with later management plans, or a parking area. Poore said there is also no plan to put in a boat launch.

In addition to the town’s portion of $6,400, the seller will also contribute $6,050, mostly for a survey and appraisal. If additional local money is required, the council will be asked to authorize funding from the open space acquisition budget.

In addition to removing the road, the purchase will include eliminating invasive plant species and planting native vegetation.

“This is a phenomenal acquisition,” Poore said.

Route 1 North

The council unanimously agreed to appropriate just under $36,000 from the Route 1 North TIF to hire Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, of South Portland, to do work in the Route 1 area.

Four bids were received in response to a request for proposals for a conceptual plan in August.

VHB, and a collaboration between MLRD of Yarmouth, TY Lin International and Wright-Pierce were the low bidders. The Route 1 North Committee recommended VHB after interviews were conducted with both firms.

Chris Wasileski, chairman of the Route 1 North Committee, said both proposals were impressive. He said both teams displayed local knowledge and an ability to work in the region. He said both gave good presentations, though VHB gave a more concise one.

A final report from VHB is expected in May, according to Theo Holtwijk, director of long range planning and economic development.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Falmouth Town Hall

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.