Casco sets meeting for property purchase

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — As the concept of Casco’s future town hall takes shape, residents will decide during a Special Town Meeting whether or not to purchase the real estate for sale next to the fire station lot with existing funds.

The undeveloped land is owned by James and Mary Jabbusch, and it was discussed during the Casco Board of Selectmen’s regular meeting on Tuesday.

It caused a stir in the community a few summers ago when a sign appeared, saying the lot was the future site of a General Dollar store — even though real estate negotiations never took place.

In recent weeks, town officials expressed interest in buying only a strip of land from the Jabbusch family, but the property owners’ offer is for the purchase of one acre with 200 feet of frontage on Route 121, also known as Meadow Road.

According to Casco Town Manager Dave Morton, the asking price of $79,000 is a little higher than market value.

If the land purchase pans out, it would not impact the tax rate or require borrowing money, he said.

The funds would come from either the Undesignated Fund Balance, which has $1.9 million, or the Open Space Reserve, which has $120,000 for the purpose of land acquisition, Morton said.

It is an opportunity that town residents might not want to pass up, Morton said.

“If property sells, the opportunity to buy property is lost,” he said.

“Providing a Special Town Meeting to see if voters want to buy the property or not is the most prudent thing to do,” Morton said.

Abutters to the parcel will be notified of the impending real estate negotiations, he said.

A Special Town Meeting is set for Aug. 18, which is a Tuesday. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m., in the Casco Community Center, following the board’s regular meeting.

“The board is confident enough to bring this to the voters, knowing they’ll either approve it or they won’t,” Morton said.

Casco resident and former board member Ray Grant said he felt deceived after being told during the Town Meeting in June that the existing town-owned parcel had adequate space for a new town hall plus parking lot.

“It looks like we are going to have a Special Town Meeting on a piece of property to build the town office on. I thought we made it clear during the regular Town Meeting — I asked and was told by the town manager that there was plenty enough space for the building,” he said.

“Before the chairs were folded and the firetrucks were pulled back in, there was a rumor going around that the town was going to buy more property,” Grant said.

Chairman Holly Hancock responded.

“There is room on the piece of property we are on. The direction from residents at Town Meeting is to do a good job,” Hancock said, adding that more land could provide better parking options.

“The taxpayers voted to build a building on that piece of property — not down the street or next door,” Grant said.

“It is almost like a bait and switch,” he said.

Morton said the upcoming Special Town Meeting would not negate the will of the majority of the voters at June’s Town Meeting. The town will go forward with plans to build a new town hall on that parcel.

Most likely, a mock plan will be drawn up showing how the building would be sited if more property is purchased.

As recommended for public safety, town official moved the conceptual drawing of the building forward on the lot and parallel to the Casco Fire Station, Morton said.

Also, details such as utility poles, power lines and the septic system have been added to the site plan, he said. Soil tests for the septic system have been completed, he said.

“We have had staff involved, in talking about things we need. We approached a draftsman to help us with the floor plan and elevations,” Morton said.

The building size will be less than 4,500 square feet, he said.

“We want something that fits in and has that New England look,” Morton said.

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