South Portland rejects continued bids for city parcels

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SOUTH PORTLAND — After two debate-filled workshops, the City Council on Nov. 3 voted against selling two pieces of city property.

Councilors by a 4-3 vote rejected sale of the parcels, 68 Hillcrest Ave. and 21 Dresser Road, to abutter Stanley Cox, who owns Cox Farm on Highland Avenue. Councilors Michael Pock, Maxine Beecher and Linda Cohen were in the minority. It has not yet been decided if the city intends to retain the properties.

The proposed purchase dates back to July 2012, when the Planning Board decided the two tax-acquired properties should be sold. Cox initiated purchasing the abutting land, and offered $18,000 for the parcels, but the council rejected the offer.

During workshops on May 12 and Oct. 27, the council also discussed imposing deed restrictions on the land to prevent future development. The proposed restrictions included prohibiting construction of a single-family home on the front lot and capping building height.

Cox upped the price to $28,000, with the stipulation that there would be no deed restrictions. After further discussion, he proposed two new prices: $25,000 with the stipulation that a single-family home was prohibited, or $23,000 with both the prohibition of a house and a building height restriction of 26 feet.

Again, the offer was rejected.

Cohen, who was in favor of selling the land without stipulations, said she didn’t want to “hold current properties hostage,” and added that any future construction on the lots would still have to go through the proper town channels. 

Beecher agreed, saying, “We spent an inordinate amount of time in the workshops and this family has gone through a whole lot for a small piece of land.”

Several of the other councilors believed that the land would eventually be developed and defeat the whole purpose of Cox’s purchase, which was to “preserve the farm.”

Councilor Melissa Linscott said she did not see a need for the Cox family to purchase the parcels, and said she feared the lots would eventually serve as a gateway to a larger development.

Mayor Jerry Jalbert echoed that sentiment.

He added that it would be unfortunate to have people look back 10 years from now and wonder why the City Council didn’t do its job. 

“This looks like a classic development proposal,” Jalbert said. 

Lily O’Gara can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or logara@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @lilyog28.

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