Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Jesse Scardina firstname.lastname@example.org
CHINA — More than 50 residents attending a public hearing Tuesday night found themselves split over the town’s plan to purchase the Cabins property on Lakeview Drive for $575,000.
Supporters repeatedly brought up the town’s commitment to lake access for all of China’s residents and to a communal gathering spot for its youth, and those against the purchase questioned the overall price of the project, including interest on a loan needed to buy the property and the costs of its development and upkeep, as well as how the area would be policed.
“There are so many unanswered questions if the town decides to buy this land,” said resident Mike Crommett. “It’s a big chunk of money not knowing what we can or can’t do to the land. I think the timing is all wrong.”
Town Manager Dan L’Heureux explained that the China Lake Access Feasibility Committee was directed only to find and recommend a potential property to buy. After the property is purchased, the Board of Selectmen and voters will decide what to do with the property. L’Heureux stressed that the potential purchase would not be a sunk cost.
“There’s a big difference between paying for something and an investment,” he said. “This is an investment, and in 30 years it’s going to be worth more than it is now.”
But some residents are still concerned about what the overall price of buying and maintaining a public park will cost taxpayers.
“The only thing we know is the price it’s going to cost to buy the land,” said resident Scott Adams.
Selectman Peter Foote said that the cost to maintain and develop the site would exceed the $575,000 purchase price, but that was all the detail he had.
Supporters argued that spending resources on what to do at a property the town does not yet own, such as how and where a parking lot might be constructed, was a waste of time.
“If we don’t know if we’ll get the property, then it’s not smart to take time and money deciding on what to do with the property,” said resident Tod Detre.
L’Heureux has said that the tax bill for the year is already set, and any increase in taxes would have to be voted on by town voters, something Dale Worster, a member of the committee, echoed.
“There’s only one way this will be a tax burden, and that’s if you all vote that way next June,” Worster said.
Policing the property if the town buys it is another issue that was repeatedly broached at the meeting.
China has a part-time constable but no local police force. Some residents are worried that at night the property would become a hotbed of mischief, parties, drinking and unlawful behavior.
“I’m appalled at the answers I get about how it’ll be policed,” Adams said.
According to Foote, the property on highly traveled Lakeview Drive would be policed by the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and the Maine State Police, who patrol that road regularly.
The 1270 Lakeview Drive property has been for sale for roughly five years, and the town has a purchase and sale agreement for $575,000 contingent on voter approval at the Nov. 5 election. The town has about $120,000 put aside for the purchase and is looking at taking out a loan from Bar Harbor Bank and Trust for the balance of the price, repaying the loan through an aggressive fundraising campaign.
The town’s plan to develop the property into a public park for residents has drawn ire from several longtime residents who believe that the cost to develop, maintain and police the property would greatly exceed the $575,000 price the selectboard and committee are saying it will cost.
Jesse Scardina — 861-9239