Freeport Town Council seals deal for turf fields

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FREEPORT — Athletes, students and residents will have two new turf fields, an indoor arena and a Little League baseball field to use after the Town Council approved a final agreement with the Seacoast United Maine soccer club Tuesday night.

In a deal that took nearly two years to solidify, councilors unanimously voted Tuesday to sell nearly 12 1/2 acres of land on Pownal and Hedgehog Mountain roads to the Topsham-based nonprofit in exchange for use of the fields.

The final purchase-and-sale agreement reduced the acreage sold to the organization from the 17 acres originally proposed.

Seacoast United Maine will allow the town and Regional School Unit 5 to use the facilities free for 424 hours each year for seven years, a value of more than $237,000. The town and schools can also purchase additional use at 80 percent of fair market value.

If they do not use the 424 hours during the first or second years, up to 50 of the unused hours may be carried forward. After the first two years, any unused hours will be forfeited.

The contract also allows Freeport and RSU 5 to purchase additional hours from Seacoast United for the next five years, up to 424 hours a year, on an as-available basis, as long as the purchase is arranged at least 10 months prior to the start of the year.

Councilor Rich DeGrandpre said another use agreement would have be drafted after the initial 12 years.

Tax revenue generated by the facility will be placed in a reserve fund to be used for future recreational needs. Seacoast also agreed to make payments in lieu of tax, and equal to the taxes that would have been assessed, if the property becomes tax exempt.

The contract also gives Freeport the right of first refusal if Seacoast decides to sell any of the property. It also gives the town the right to match any subsequent offer if Seacoast finds a buyer at a lower price.

Mike Healey, former president of the club, said financing and environmental permitting needs to be completed, but construction could start in the spring.

In other business, councilors accepted a new portion of School Street that extends to Bow Street.

Although the street is not completed and sidewalks will not be open during the winter, the council accepted the extension as a public street. The final surface pavement will be applied in the spring and the owner, Adam Nappi, will complete any construction necessary for one year.

The council also decided to discuss the repeal of a pinball and video game ordinance that Councilor DeGranpre called “onerous.”

“It’s easier to get a liquor license than a pinball machine,” he said. “It is written that they can’t be within 250 feet of a school, church or residence. It’s a pretty onerous ordinance.”

The Ordinance Committee will review the document and with feedback from Freeport Economic Development Corp., will make adjustments and bring a recommendation to the council in January.

Commercial pinball and video games have not been permitted since 1983, when there was concern about proliferation of arcades downtown.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

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‘You want fries with that?’

FREEPORT — Customers will now be able to hear their orders repeated back to them when they use the drive-through window at McDonald’s on Mallett Drive.

By a 4-3 vote, the Town Council on Tuesday approved a zoning amendment that will allow a two-way intercom system at the restaurant.

Previously, customers placed their orders without any audible response from restaurant employees, then drove to the next window to pay and get their food. The system was a concession to concerns about excessive noise in the neighborhood, although nearby banks have been allowed to use two-way intercoms at their drive-up teller windows.

McDonald’s owner Ron Lydick of Falmouth said the restriction was bad for business. Of the seven McDonald’s he owns, Lydick said, the Freeport restaurant has the slowest service time and more incorrect orders than any other location.

“We are trying to move this forward because of customer convenience and employee frustration levels,” he said. “Service is slower because of the inexperience of customers to this system and there are inaccurate orders.”

Councilors Sara Gideon, Eric Pandora and Charlotte Bishop voted against the zoning change, which they said is a piecemeal way to deal with the problem.

The ordinance states that the speaker will not be heard past the McDonald’s property lines. The new intercom system could begin as soon as Wednesday, Dec. 8 Town Planner Donna Larson said.

— Amy Anderson

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