Falmouth may add nearly 40 acres near town forest

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council on Monday night approved an option to purchase about 37 acres of land adjacent to the North Falmouth Community Forest.

Prior to the council meeting, the town’s Conservation Commission continued its discussion of a possible ordinance restricting the application of pesticides in town.

The final council vote for the proposed land deal was 6-1, with Councilor Andrea Ferrante opposed.

The undeveloped land, on Babbidge Road near the 375-acre forest, is being sold by Edward and Kathleen McLean.

Town Manager Nathan Poore said a town-retained real estate agent estimated the value of the land to be in the mid-$200,000 range. Poore said the town offered $250,000, although it does not pay more than an appraised value for land.

Poore said the sellers indicated “they were fine starting with that.”

An option agreement of between $250,000 and $290,000 is on the table, pending an appraisal. If the value of the land is less than $250,000, the sellers can back out; conversely, if the land is valued at more than $290,000, the town can step away.

The town will paid for the appraisal and a survey of the land, which Poore said will cost about $7,000.

On the town side, the sale is contingent on receipt of a U.S. Forest Service Community Forest grant, from which it is hoped half the purchase price will be recovered. Grant proposals are due in January.

Conditions of the sellers include having the town install a wire fence to delineate property lines and keep the sellers’ pets inside; replacing a collapsed culvert and moving the sellers’ driveway, and, if the town builds spaces for parking, to put those at the southern entrance.

Councilors indicated part of the land could be used for parking for those who visit the North Falmouth Community Forest, which has very limited parking. Vice Chairman Caleb Hemphill said the new parcel would allow for destination parking, and said creating parking would be “a relatively easy fix.”

Councilor Ned Kitchel also said it is “not a major undertaking to make parking” on the parcel.

Pesticide ordinance

The Conservation Commission will begin a series of fact-finding sessions to gather more information about the pesticides being used in town. They will begin by seeking input from the scientific community, including the state Board of Pesticide Control, the Casco Bay Estuary Project, physicians and veterinarians and others.

Future fact-finding will include talking to owners of Falmouth businesses, such as nurseries, golf courses, farmers and fisherman; town staff, such as public works and the school department; and town residents. There is a list of questions for each targeted group, but the commission wanted to begin with the scientific community in case their answers might shape questions for others.

Commission members hoped to have the first fact-finding session complete by their next meeting, which is Jan. 4.

The commission also discussed including fertilizers in the discussions about an ordinance, as some fertilizers already contain pesticides. Commission member Sarah Boudreau said it was “really important we consider it.”

“I think they’re misused and impacting Casco Bay,” she said. “I think we should include it.”

She specifically mentioned “weed and feed” type fertilizers, which are combinations of herbicides and fertilizer. She said people don’t always understand what they’re putting on their lawns when they use those types of products.

While the directive from the Town Council to the commission didn’t mention fertilizers, councilors attending the meeting said they didn’t see a need to go back to the council for approval to include fertilizers just yet.

Kitchel, the council liaison for the commission, said he felt comfortable if their preliminary plan incorporated fertilizers because some contain pesticides.

Hemphill said if it was “the will of the commission” to include fertilizers, he recommended doing so.

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

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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.