Fine tuning park proposal

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

The Bridgton Board of Selectmen held a workshop this week on the proposed conservation easement and the corresponding stewardship committee agreement for Pondicherry Park.

Last month, by a vote of 1,225 in favor and 372 opposed, voters approved accepting the 66-acre Pondicherry Park in downtown Bridgton from Loon Echo Land Trust, with the provision that the board of selectmen successfully negotiate the terms of the conservation easement with LELT and the Stewardship Committee agreement with LELT and Lakes Environmental Association by June 30, 2012, or the selectmen have the right to terminate, subject to renewal by voters.

The workshop selectmen held Nov. 29 allowed the five board members to carefully review the proposed conservation easement that has been “tweaked” by Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz, page by page — all 24 of them — and the three-page Stewardship Committee agreement, as well.

Berkowitz pointed out that the draft conservation easement offered up by LELT has several areas where he either added or deleted certain words and sentences in order to bring them more in line with what would best serve the town. The town manager also noted that Town Attorney Richard Spencer told him that much of the language in the conservation easement document is what is referred to as “boilerplate,” or standard legal language.

Negotiating team named

The Board will have Selectmen Bernie King and Doug Taft, as well as the town manager, serve as the negotiation team for the town, when they meet with LELT and LEA representatives to work out the conservation easement and committee agreement for Pondicherry Park.

Berkowitz said he sees no reason to hold the negotiating sessions in executive session — or closed-door meetings — saying they will all be held in public session.

As far as the appointment of members to the Pondicherry Park Stewardship Committee, the board concurred that no more than seven people should serve at one time — one each from LEA and LELT and appointed by those organizations — and five from Bridgton whom the selectmen will appoint.

The purpose of the Stewardship Committee “is to develop and, from time to time, to recommend any amendments to the Pondicherry Park Management Plan for the Town of Bridgton to consider for adoption,” and “the Committee shall also recommend to the Town various tasks that are appropriate to maintain the Park…”

The selectmen have not seen a copy of the proposed Management Plan drafted by LEA and LELT, saying they want draft copies available to them prior to the start of the negotiation sessions. Chairman Arthur Triglione said a public hearing would be held to explain the conservation easement and the committee agreement to voters, prior to the board considering enacting the terms of both documents.

After some discussion, the selectmen also agreed that the Stewardship Committee will make their decisions by a majority vote of four members, not “51% of the total number” as it was worded in the draft copy. Also, all of the Stewardship Committee meetings will be open to the public.

Selectman Doug Taft suggested limiting the number of terms someone appointed to the Stewardship Committee could serve, but Selectman Paul Hoyt noted that the board has not made that stipulation to any other town-appointed boards or committees, and the other selectmen agreed with Hoyt.

Selectman Taft also said he wanted to know how much the maintenance costs for Pondicherry Park will run the town, and Berkowitz said he has included $5,000 in the upcoming budget year for that.

“Five thousand dollars is about what I was planning (for maintenance at Pondicherry Park),” Berkowitz said, noting that he is budgeting $40,000 to $45,000 in the same budget for the maintenance of the BRAG recreation fields off Route 302.

Conservation easement

The town manager said that, at points throughout the negotiation process, he will be running any changes and/or amendments to the draft conservation easement by Town Atty. Spencer, for his legal opinion.

Selectman Taft also said he does not want to see Pondicherry Park increase in size in the future.

“I would not like to see them keep adding acreage out there,” said Taft.
We’re at 66 acres now, and it started at 20 (acres) and then went to 40 (acres)…My concern is we could end up at Long Lake, and what we have could be 10 times larger (than the 66 acres now in Pondicherry Park).”

Other concerns raised by the selectmen included:

• the board concurred, with only Selectman Woody Woodward opposed, to not allow any paved trails in Pondicherry Park;

• the town manager acknowledged that a point raised by Bear Zaidman, regarding the effect of certain types of waste water disposal into surface waters of properties abutting Pondicherry Park, should be reviewed by the town’s attorney;

• that dogs should not be allowed in Pondicherry Park, except in one designated area;

• that prior to adoption by the town, the selectmen want to see the boundary lines of Pondicherry Park marked by LELT; and

• the selectmen agreed that any future amendments to the conservation easement should be made “by mutual judgment and agreement” of all parties.

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