Scarborough council OKs deal for recreation land
SCARBOROUGH — A short agenda led to a brief Town Council meeting Wednesday night at Town Hall, but resulted in the likely acquisition of a new town recreation area off Payne Road.
The council authorized Town Manager Tom Hall to sign a memorandum of understanding with officers of the Scarborough Land Trust that will eventually convey six acres of land to the town from a larger trust purchase.
The trust is expected to close this week on the deal to buy a 157-acre parcel known as Warren Woods. The land is tucked into an area bounded by Payne, Mussey and Gorham roads.
The $285,000 puchase is mostly funded with $229,000 from the town land acquisition reserve fund. A total of about $365,000 was needed to cover the acquisition and stewardship costs.
With Councilor Jessica Holbrook absent, councilors unanimously approved authorizing Hall to sign the agreement, although Hall said there are no imminent plans to construct athletic fields on the six acres.
"There are no definite plans, but this is the time to pursue the option," Hall said.
Councilor Ed Blaise initially questioned the non-binding nature of the agreement, because it gives the trust an escape clause, but was assured by Hall and trust board member Jeremy Wintersteen that both sides find the deal beneficial.
"It is a great mix of active and passive recreation," Wintersteen said. "We are in full support of it. At the end of the day, we see it as a partnership."
Wintersteen added the memorandum of understanding is needed because the trust faces a Dec. 31 deadline to close on the purchase from Harvey Warren. Some details with the town could not be finalized before the deadline, so the memorandum acknowledges discussions must continue.
Hall said because the trust has received town assistance on land purchases, it would not help its cause to back out of an agreement to turn over some of the land for recreational use while the rest is preserved under conservation restrictions.
"Frankly, they'd be biting the hand that feeds them," Hall said.
Councilors also returned to unfinished business by passing a resolution endorsing protocols for the fledgling Greater Portland Economic Development Corp. and how its member communities of Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Portland, Scarborough, South Portland and Westbrook will collaborate for economic growth.
The resolution was tabled at the Dec. 5 meeting while councilors decided to gauge reaction from the board of the Scarborough Economic Development Corp.
The reaction was not long in coming; SEDCO's board endorsed the protocol Dec. 6. In a memo to councilors and Town Manager Tom Hall, SEDCO Executive Director Harvey Rosenfeld said the protocol discouraging member communities from soliciting businesses to move from one member community to another "generally documents an informal system that is currently practiced by member communities."
Rosenfeld said while some prior business relocation has specifically benefited Scarborough, it has not enhanced the region as a whole because of job losses in other communities.
The protocol allows confidential discussions between businesses and member town officials, even as it requires disclosure of the agreement municipal officials will not openly solicit businesses in other member communities.
The council also approved a first reading of zoning changes for land off Route 1 just below the Dunstan Corner intersections at Broadturn and Pine Point roads.
The three-acre section at the end of Griffin Road is now placed in two rural zones, and property owner Risbara Properties is seeking to have the land placed in the Town and Village Center Zone.
Rezoning the land would allow the company to move forward on a planned apartment complex of about 30 one- and two-bedroom apartments. The zoning change was endorsed by the Long Range Planning Committee last spring and was forwarded to the Planning Board for review and advice. A Planning Board hearing is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2013.
Councilors also waived foreclosure requirements on three mobile homes off Route 22. Tax liens remain on the homes on David Drive, but Hall asked the council to waive the foreclosures because the town seeks to avoid turning residents out of their homes and "these properties are more of a liability than they would be an asset to the town."
The meeting closed with an executive session allowing councilors to evaluate Hall's performance.