Heath parcel purchase heads to Casco town meeting

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — A proposal to purchase two parcels of land on the Heath will head to Casco Town Meeting in June.

There is an opportunity “for the town to acquire some pretty important property on the Heath,” Open Space Commission Chairman Keith Morehouse said.

“The individuals are selling 14 acres. They live here locally and are excited to have this land included in conservation. They are willing to take $75,000. The assessed value is $130,000 for the two parcels,” he said.

The land has approximately a half-mile of shore frontage, Morehouse said. Also, it has value because of the renewable resource of fishing and as a wildlife habitat, he said.

The privately owned land is in the Resource Protection Zone, which strictly prohibits the types of activities that can take place.

The purchase of the land would be for conservation purposes — one of the goals stated in the Town of Casco’s Comprehensive Plan.

During its Feb. 27 meeting, the Casco Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to make the proposed land purchase a warrant article at the upcoming Annual Town Meeting in June.

Any purchase of land by the town or sale of town-owned land must be approved by the majority of residents at town meeting. The exception to that is tax-acquired land.

If the upcoming land buy is approved, the town staff would draft a Purchase and Sale Agreement for the Heath parcels.

Currently, the Land Acquisition account has about $50,000. Therefore, this conservation project will come before the Casco Finance Committee so that it can be adequately budgeted.

Thompson Lake drains into the Heath.

According to the Thompson Lake Marina website, Thompson Lake is “in the top 5% of the cleanest and clearest lakes in Maine. It ranks 24 out of 410.”

“One of the quiet attractions of Thompson Lake is the Heath,” the website said.

Selectman Grant Plummer said he is very familiar with the Heath and spends time with his children, fishing and snowmobiling there. Therefore, he knows the layout of the property the town is proposing to buy.

“It is one of these pieces with a hill that goes straight to the water. It is a steep piece of property,” Plummer said.

“The shoreland of the Heath is in Resource Protection Zone. I think it is an area that is worth preserving,” he said, adding the property owners selling it for conservation purposes believe that, too.

Chairman Holly Hancock asked how much the water levels fluctuate.

Plummer said, “Last year was the worst because the culvert was dammed up.”

Chairman Hancock said, “There is no water draining out of the Heath into Thompson Lake because there is such an elevation.”

In related business, Plummer said that he has discussed the Heath with Casco Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Alex Sirois.

“That resource protection language is pretty specific. You cannot do anything as far as tree cutting,” he said. “I’ve asked Alex to put together a packet for neighbors living on Heath so they know what a Resource Protection Zone is.”

According to Morehouse, the land acquisition would be a move in the direction of the commission’s goals.

“The ordinance and the focus area plan were adopted in 2006. Thus far, not a single property in the focus area has been added to those areas protected by the town. This would be the first,” Morehouse said.

Selectman Thomas Peaslee said he accompanied the Open Space Commission during its conversation with the land-owners – just to be privy to the information about this proposed conservation land acquisition.

“The people on Open Space have done a good job already. They have put a lot of effort and work into this,” Peaslee said.

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