Bridgton asked to take over part of community forest land

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

When Loon Echo Land Trust acquired 1,488 acres — now known as the Perley Mills Community Forest — it initially wanted to gift 938 acres to Denmark and 550 acres to Bridgton.

Bridgton, however, declined ownership.

So, Loon Echo gifted the entire piece to Denmark, and Denmark paid yearly taxes of $3,275 on the 550-acre tract to the Town of Bridgton.

Taxes on the property are $1,217 per year for Denmark on the 938 acres, or $1.30 per acre compared to Bridgton’s $5.96 per acre cost.

Now, Denmark would like to back away from that tax commitment, so LELT Executive Director Thom Perkins has approached Bridgton selectmen about the town reconsidering its earlier decision.

“The Town of Denmark has investigated ways to address this discrepancy and harmonize the tax rates, but has been stymied by the fact that the two towns are in different counties (Denmark in Oxford County and Bridgton in Cumberland). The town has explored various options to divest themselves of the disproportionate tax burden, even contemplating the stopping of tax payments and allowing the town of Bridgton to take the property for lack of tax payments,” Perkins wrote the board.

Bridgton Town Manager Bob Peabody suspects the town rejected taking ownership of the property, which under the LELT easement permanently restricts most development, due to the loss of tax dollars.

Perkins pointed out that Bridgton could see several benefits by taking ownership of the 550 acres.

One would be protection for the town’s aquifer. “With development pressures close at hand, Bridgton should control and protect its water resource,” he said.

Two, a forester projected the town could see a return of $27,500 to $50,000 per year in timber harvesting.

Three, since Bridgton is a destination point for recreation, the Perley Mills Community Forest fits nicely as an attraction. “Bridgton would be able to control the recreational destiny of the property and take advantage of the economic spinoff. The recreational component is now in the hands of others,” Perkins added.

Before Bridgton selectmen act on the request, officials have asked its forester, who recently handled work on Sabattis Island, to review the property and report on potential timber harvesting. Selectmen hope to have that report in hand soon, and will discuss the matter at a workshop meeting on Jan. 4 at 5 p.m.

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