2018-02-13 / Local

More public land in Brunswick after conservation deal

Times Record Staff


Brunswick has added 22.6 acres of conservation land for public use.

The acceptance of a conservation easement by the Brunswick Town Council last week was a condition of the Planning Board’s August approval for a 17-lot subdivision off Hacker Road. The development — Douglas Ridge Estates — encompasses 44 acres, with approximately half of that earmarked for conservation.

The forested land is adjacent to land already protected at the Wood Pond and Two Echo subdivisions, said Jared Woolston, Brunswick’s interim director of planning and development, “so this would sort of make a larger tract of conservation land.”

Some councilors did not support the conservation condition added to Planning Board approval.

When Councilor Jane Millett was told there was “lots of buildable land” on the parcel, she expressed frustration that planning policy was not reflective of the town’s financial situation. She asked if the town’s new planning ordinance requires developers to set aside conservation land, and if they all get additional lot density for doing so.

“When we look at all the properties that the town owns and we look at the conservation easements, there are a lot of them all over town,” Millett said. “These are coming off the tax rolls and we’ve got people who are very upset about what our taxes are.”

Woolston said the town’s new ordinance has more specific characteristic requirements for conservation land. The property accepted by the town falls in a smart growth district, which aims to limit fragmentation of forested areas, while still allowed for some development.

Developer Robert Muller told councilors he could have built 2- acre lots for less money, but he is not an advocate of sprawl. The conserved land, former farmland, he said, has been untouched for at least 60 years.

Council Steve Walker said when a subdivision such as this — with “bonus density” — is assessed, the value of the lots reflect any value eliminated by open space. There is no net loss from land coming off the tax rolls when it is subdivided like this, he said.

Walker, who was pleased with the conservation of the land, said it is in the headwaters of a very important native brook trout stream. He advocated for more specific language regarding allowed activities, including hunting and fishing, and parameters for public access closures to be included in the easement.

Woolston said the town, which is the easement holder, would be notified about activities allowed on the land and, in many cases, approve them. He also noted the council didn’t have to accept the land.

There was also concern from councilors about designated parking for the conserved land. Muller said there is direct access from the Two Echo Subdivision property and Wood Pond Road. Parking at Cox Pinnacle on Hacker Road is also available, according to the easement.

Ultimately, the motion to accept the conservation easement was approved, with councilors Millett, David Watson and Christopher Watkinson opposed.

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