Island Falls petition questions land sales

12 years ago

By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer

    ISLAND FALLS — A citizens’ petition bearing signatures of more than 25 Island Falls residents has been submitted to the town office requesting a special town meeting.
    Town Manager David Dionne confirmed Tuesday morning that his office received the petition and has consulted with the town’s attorney on the matter. Dionne declined to comment on what the attorney’s recommendation was because he has yet to present that information to the town’s board of selectmen. That information will be presented to the board at its next meeting, Wednesday (today) at 4:30 p.m.
    Dionne said the petition stems from an article that was approved by voters at the annual town meeting, which allows the municipality to sell any “non-contiguous” pieces of town property of five acres or less that have no commercial value to the town, provided the sale is equal to or greater than its taxed value. All money realized from the sales of such parcels was to be placed in a Roads Maintenance Reserve account.
    “Basically, what the selectmen did was they opted to use a realtor to sell those properties to see if they could get the best price for them,” Dionne said.
    The petition requests that a special town meeting be held to vote on an article to stop all sales of town-owned real estate until an ordinance can be put into effect to regulate those sales.
    The petition also seeks a moratorium on the sale of all town-owned property, other than by a sealed bid process or vote of the townspeople.
    A third request on the petition deals with wood harvesting within the town and seeks that any roads to be built on town property for the purpose of wood harvesting be approved by voters after a public hearing.
    “The town owns 10,000 acres of land that is forested,” Dionne said. “The town has contracted wood harvest services for several years. They have contracted an outside forester and he informs the board on what they should and shouldn’t be harvesting.”
    Dionne said when doing harvesting operations, roads must first be built to provide access to the area being harvested.
    “The way that it works is they build the road and whatever they make (on harvesting) minus their costs, which include building of the roads, is what the town gets,” he said.
    Former selectman Toby Lougee said Monday afternoon that he was one of the people responsible for circulating the petition. He stated the petition was presented to the town office on Tuesday, July 10. The board of selectmen met on Wednesday, July 11, but tabled the matter pending advice from legal counsel.
    “Right now, our land is being sold,” Lougee said. “We’ve been building more roads and people have been getting rich.”
    Lougee contends that the plots the town has been selling, including two on Pleasant Pond, should have been put to voters to decide.
    Lougee also claims that minutes from town meetings dating back to the 1960s have gone missing from the town office, making it difficult to back-track whether certain parcels of land were set aside for specific purposes.
    “We don’t know what the board is going to do,” Lougee said. “It will be interesting to see how this all gets sorted out.”