November 20, 2018

Brewer, Orrington dickering over wording of land-sale pact

ORRINGTON — Selectmen here have requested a wording change in the purchase agreement of a forsaken gravel pit off Route 15, which the town is negotiating to buy from the city of Brewer for no more than $39,500.

At the moment, terms of the purchase-sale agreement — determined by Brewer City Council — state that the land must be put to “recreational” use. Orrington Selectmen, however, have suggested that the agreement state the river frontage may be developed for “public” use.

“As Orrington continues to grow, we may need further municipal services,” Candace Guerette, town manager, said Thursday. The area “up and away” from the river bank would be a suitable location for a fire department or a municipal building, she added.

Selectman Norman Gogan said that using the term “public” rather than “recreational” use would be a “better choice of words.” If the Brewer City Council refuses to sway on such wording, however, Gogan said he would still be in favor of purchasing the property.

Brewer City Council had agreed to sell the parcel more than a month ago, provided that Orrington develop the property for recreational purposes and that the river frontage be open to people from both communities.

The almost eight-acre lot is located down a long meandering dirt way — Grant Road — off Route 15. The lot is bounded by nearly 600 feet of riverbank.

Brewer ceased using the gravel pit along the east bank of the Penobscot River about 10 years ago, according to City Manager Harold Parks. Today wild flowers, grass and weeds overrun the narrow road and hole in the ground.

Guerette said that the town still wants to develop the waterfront area recreationally, as stipulated in the sale agreement. “It’s an ideal site to provide riverfront recreational activities for the community,” she said recently.

Plans for the gravel pit, she went on, include a picnic area and a boat docking and launching facility. She hopes to receive recreational grants from state agencies and volunteer work from the National Guard to develop the waterfront.

But selectmen are concerned that the recreational provision might restrict future development, Guerette said.

Upon hearing last week that Orrington desired a change in the agreement, Brewer Councilors Ronald Harriman, Marilyn Lavelle and Gerald Robertson were adamantly opposed.

“You can list a hundred uses that would be for public purpose,” said Harriman. Given how rapidly a community can change, he continued, it is important the riverfront property be set aside and preserved, which the recreational provision is intended to accomplish.

Harriman said he was pleased to sell the property to a “good neighbor” capable of developing the area in this time of ever-shrinking water frontage. That Brewer could develop the area, however, is not likely, for taxpayers there would not be willing to support the upkeep of property in South Orrington, he added.

Councilor Larry Doughty opposed sale of the land in the first place, saying that if Brewer residents were to see the parcel, they would be unlikely to vote for its sale.

“The lot is beautiful, and I think we made a mistake to get rid of it,” he said. It is unfortunate the land will be sold, but once it’s gone, it’s out of the city’s control, he added. “We’ve got no right to tell the town of Orrington what they can or cannot do with that piece of property.”

Selectmen will meet to discuss the language revision in the purchase terms and the purchase generally, at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27, at the town office.

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