Wayne officials are deciding whether to transfer a forested, 118-acre property on Wilson Pond to the Kennebec Land Trust, a deal that would ensure the land is preserved after the town acquired it four years ago.
The town took ownership of that land in April 2013 after the owner failed to pay taxes on it for five years.
At Town Meeting in 2015, a majority of voters authorized the town to go through with a legal action that has cemented its ownership of the land.
That legal action, known as “quieting the deed,” was completed in August 2016, and since then, a town committee has been considering what to do with the land, according to documents available on the section of the town website for the Open Space Committee.
That committee is holding a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Town Office to continue researching the various options for the property, said Ford Stevenson, committee chairman.
“Part of the charge from selectmen is to review and research different concepts of what could happen,” Stevenson said Thursday. “We’re trying to get all scenarios that all make sense, the pros and cons, and costs and people’s feelings.”
He said he does not anticipate the list being complete Monday, but once it is, the town committee then would have a session specifically to collect public input. Once that is completed, the additional information would be incorporated and then the list of options would be forwarded to the selectmen.
Whatever selectmen decide, he said, would be sent to the voters.
“There is going to be a contention around this thing and a whole range of opinions of what ought to happen,” he said. “From my point of view, I’d like to get all the options out in the open. Then the people can decide.”
Residents have expressed an interest in preserving the land, according to the town documents; and for the last few months, the Open Space Committee has been working out a proposal that would transfer the land to the Kennebec Land Trust.
Given the largely undeveloped nature of the land and its proximity to several area lakes, the Kennebec Land Trust also is interested in managing the property, said Theresa Kerchner, the organization’s executive director.
But the Kennebec Land Trust also is waiting for a clear signal from Wayne voters that they would like such a land transfer to take place.
“I see this as a potentially very successful project, if this is what the town has as a goal,” Kerchner said. “We don’t want to force any outcome on communities. We’re in the business of conserving land. … What we’re looking for from the town is a strong message to us that they have reached a decision about the future of the property, I assume through a vote at Town Meeting. If they vote that they want to affirmatively, then we’ll take that as signal that they’re willing to partner.”
Among the conditions that would need to be met for the sale are that citizens must raise $70,000 to pay the back taxes and legal fees that are owed for the land, as well as an additional $17,638 for Kennebec Land Trust to manage the property, according to a May letter from Kennebec Land Trust officials.
The town of Wayne also would have to survey the boundaries of the land, and two activities — trapping and all-terrain-vehicle riding — would be off-limits.
In an email, Gary Kenny, chairman of the Select Board, said he was not familiar with the Open Space Committee’s deliberations, but that he is expecting “an update and possibly a recommendation from (the committee) at one of our upcoming meetings.”
It’s not clear how much support there is for the town to transfer the land to the Kennebec Land Trust. At Town Meeting in 2015, citizens voted 178-110 to pay the legal fees for quieting the land’s title.
Charles Eichacker — 621-5642