Point Sebago withdraws extension

DURING A TOUR of the gated community, Casco Planning Board members saw homes in stages of development along Deer Run at Point Sebago Resort. (De Busk Photo)

DURING A TOUR of the gated community, Casco Planning Board members saw homes in stages of development along Deer Run at Point Sebago Resort. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Last week, Point Sebago was on a fast-paced timeline with the Town of Casco to come before that town’s planning board and selectmen, and to get approval on the amendment to a Contract Zone Agreement (CZA) that had been headed for Town Meeting on June 10.

However, that course was altered this Friday when Point Sebago Resort withdrew its application with the town for an extension.

Previously, an agreement between the local business and the town had remained in limbo, or “at loggerheads” as Casco Board of Selectmen Thomas Peaslee said during a March 24 meeting.

One of the points of disagreement was the number of years to be applied to a temporary extension. The town advocated for one year, while Point Sebago’s lawyer requested a three-year extension.

That and other factors came into play on Friday as Point Sebago opted to officially withdraw its application.

Almost immediately, the town posted on its website the subsequent cancellations of the Casco Planning Board meeting that was specially scheduled on Monday to hurry up the Point Sebago paperwork as well as the Public Hearing slated to happen before the two boards on April 7.

Tuesday afternoon, Town Manager Dave Morton confirmed that Point Sebago Resort had withdrawn the application. Morton said that the business was in no way breaking the law by ending the application extension process.

Point Sebago will have until the time the CZA ends, on Oct. 31, 2015, to “build out” on the property, he said.

After that period of time, homes could only be resold and no new development would occur.

Still, a legal issue had not yet been defined to complete satisfaction between both parties. The confusing point is what would happen when the CZA expires.

Obviously, the property could not revert to the larger lot sizes that are generally allowed on shoreland and wetland property. The homes are packed too tightly to adhere to typical town ordinances.

Morton said Point Sebago was allowed many variances including smaller lot sizes, and those would not necessarily change when the contract zone agreement ended in late October. According to Morton, the best legal interpretation was that Point Sebago could continue with already approved developments, but all new construction must stop by the end of October.

However, Point Sebago General Manager Don Toms views that differently.

“That is still an unknown,” he said, regarding the status of the CZA once it ends.

According to Morton, Point Sebago will have to come before the planning board again when they develop beyond the 10th hole or begin any new construction.

For now, the resort plans to continue building homes on Deer Run, the last development to be approved by the town, according to Toms.

The management of the resort would have preferred to have three years to complete that section of the resort, he said. But, that option did not seem to be on the horizon, Toms said.

Currently, the Point Sebago Resort property is owned by Casco Realty Trust, which has existed since 1980 for the beneficiary of the owner’s two children — both sons, Toms said. In other words, the deed is in the hands of those heirs after the founder of Point Sebago Resort, Lawrence Gould, died this winter. Gould and his wife also began Camp Sunshine; and there was a separation of that property from Sebago Resort prior to the Contract Zone Renewal application process.

“To me, personally, it is disappointing that we couldn’t have gotten something through,” Toms said. “At a minimum, we could have gotten one year clean, to work on the eight items addressed initially. The planning board was amenable to that,” he said.

At first, there was a list of about 10 issues that local elected officials thought needed to be addressed. Then, as mentioned by both Toms and Morton, compromise occurred and parties dropped that request to three items.

“The contract zone allows a negotiation process. Originally, the (selectmen) had nine issues, and they dropped back to three. We don’t want to have construction. We want analysis,” Morton said.

Tying those specific items to the contract zone agreement was a hitching post to delay. Neither the business nor the town found a common ground there.

“The irony of the whole thing is: We are already doing what we are being asked. We are taking care of the ponds for stormwater runoff. We are doing that analysis regardless,” Toms said, adding that the company has hired professionals to assist with those projects.

“We are looking at the fire hydrants, and looking at the flow for fire suppression. We don’t have to, but we are,” Toms said.

Morton said that the business within the contract zone could not compare itself to other resident on private property.

“The contract zone process requires that an applicant meet the requirements of the planning board and the select-board.” Point Sebago faces a higher level of scrutiny than most applicants do during the normal planning board process. “A contract zone, by its very nature, is asking for an exemption to the zoning laws,” Morton said.

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