Wiscasset hears ideas for planning about its acreage near Maine Yankee

Fri, 05/10/2024 - 8:45am

Finding the “highest and best use” of Wiscasset’s 297 acres near Maine Yankee is the point of looking into the long-held property, Economic Development Director Aaron Chrostowsky told selectmen May 7. The board now wants to learn about possible forest management. Selectmen took no votes but voiced interest in housing, business and the limited tree harvesting Chrostowsky said could yield money toward developing that Old Ferry Road property.

Wiscasset needs middle income housing and needs more economic development, Selectman William “Bill” Maloney said. He had no issue with the idea of a site assessment Chrostowsky said the town might be able to seek grant funds for. But some of the other steps Chrostowsky outlined sounded like “bureaucracy” that could be avoided to get the property developed sooner, Maloney said.

Chrostowsky floated possibly seeking federal Brownfields funds if Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission gets more of those; and a series of steps he said the board could choose to do or not do, including the site assessment; and creating a master plan, possibly with a hired planner, and offering the plan to voters. 

The town got the property when the nuclear power plant was closing, Town Manager Dennis Simmons said. Naming some options, Chrostowsky said he does not think selling the property is the best one. “Somebody could buy it and then it could get subdivided and developed, and keep on being carved out.” He said ideas have included a clean energy technology park, housing, and open space for recreation. “I’m pretty confident that we can come up with a shared goal ... if we come up with a plan and it could accommodate everybody’s vision.”

Due to wetlands, roads, rights of way, shoreline and steep slopes, about 200 acres are harvestable for the wood, he said. Does that mean to clearcut, Chair Sarah Whitfield asked. He is not recommending that, he said.

“Oh I’m not either,” Whitfield said.

Simmons explained, “(The forest) needs to be properly managed, so that we don’t lose valuable timber and the rest of the forest can grow and prosper without having a lot of dead or diseased trees in the area.” He said some of the timber “is going to go by if it sits there for too much longer, which is just going to be a waste for everybody.”

According to information Chrostowsky gave the board, Forestree Concepts has estimated, depending on factors including what and how much is taken, market demand and more, harvesting could bring $32,100 to $64,200.

Answering board questions, Simmons supported Chrostowsky’s suggestions to do certain harvesting and then put away that money toward developing the property. Simmons said he will get Forestree Concepts on an agenda, possibly for the board’s June 4 meeting. 

Also May 7, the board named resident, 24-year aviation planner and past Wiscasset Municipal Airport manager Ervin Deck to the planning board and Simmons and Chrostowsky to LCRPC’s board; nodded Sea Basket’s liquor license request and Cubbyhole’s special amusement permit request for music and a deejay in 2024-25; and approved, contingent on town rules, a business license for Sheepscot Enterprises to sell boats online.

The board denied Sea Basket’s requested sewer abatement after a wintertime water leak. Sewer Department Superintendent Rob Lalli told the board the request arrived after the 30-day window ran out. Aware of no precedent for waiving the window, selectmen went with Lalli’s recommendation against an abatement.

Maine Art Gallery’s Richard Riese thanked the board and residents for their support and said many shows are ahead. MAG invited plein air (outdoor) artists to paint in town on June 8, which turned out to be Wormfest, Reise added. Whitfield, one of Wormfest’s organizers, started laughing. “You may get some interesting paintings,” she said.

The savings from the switch to LED (light-emitting diode) street lights continue. Simmons said $7,318 has been spent from the street light account, versus $34,210 by this time last year. They are “right on track” to pay for themselves in their first two and a half years, Simmons said. The town got them with American Rescue Plan Act funds, he added.