TOPSHAM — While a site for a potential regional business park has yet to be confirmed, Topsham and Brunswick development advocates are establishing a committee to draft an initial agreement between the towns.
John Shattuck, Topsham’s economic and community development director, told the Board of Selectmen on Jan. 22 that if both towns approve the document, it will be widened to include other communities in the region that have been part of the business park discussion.
The property being eyed for the park is northwest of the intersection of Interstate 295 and Route 196 in Topsham.
Vernal pools on that site present a challenge to development, although co-owner Bob Williams said about half of the approximately 140-acre parcel is buildable and would not infringe on the wetlands. Williams has been working on a plan that meets U.S. Army Corps of Engineers environmental impact criteria while remaining economically feasible.
“There’s been steady progress,” Shattuck said. “There’s ongoing communication between the land owner and the folks at Army Corps, and I’d say that the outlook is optimistic. We don’t have a final configuration yet, but it’s very good that the back and forth is continuing to go.”
Shattuck also mentioned that President Barack Obama’s administration has called for stimulating the economy through funds availed for public infrastructure. Topsham is looking into its eligibility for funds to extend public water and sewer infrastructure to the west side of I-295. The project could benefit not only a business park there, but other developments in that area of town, Shattuck has said.
The Board of Selectmen also voted in the meeting against accepting an invitation to have two selectmen serve on the town’s economic and community development body, Topsham Development.
“I thought selectmen were supposed to be separate from the committees so we remain neutral,” Selectman Sandra Consolini said.
Peter Lepari of Topsham Development suggested that selectmen participation “would enhance the flow of communication between the two boards,” pointing out that a major project worked on by Topsham Development would have to go through Board of Selectmen scrutiny on its way to Town Meeting, and that a more direct relationship between the two bodies would help them to coordinate.
Selectman Jim Trusiani recommending continuing the monthly updates from Topsham Development, and having a workshop with both boards. He added that he thought the group is “going in the right direction with their work plan.”
“I’ve never been one to shy away from getting more ideas,” Lepari said. “Whether or not they’re ideas that agree with me or they’re ideas that I’ve thought of, I just want to have the ideas.”
Ron Riendeau, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, responded that “we do want to work with you; we just want to work with you as a board.”