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Maxwell Woods open space, Aster Lane extension plans win preliminary OK

The Town Council on June 12, 2017 granted conditional acceptance of more than 8 acres of open space, as well as an extension of Aster Lane to Spurwink Avenue, as part of the Maxwell Woods mulitplex housing development currently under Planning Board review. [memo]

Developer Joel Fitzpatrick is planning a 46-unit development - 38 condominiums and two, 4-unit apartment buildings - for the vicinity of Spurwink Avenue and Aster Lane, next to the Spurwink Woods subdivision and the Cottage Brook condominiums, which Fitzpatrick is also developing.

The Planning Board granted preliminary approval of the project in May, said project engineer Owens McCullough of Sebago Technics. The board will consider final approval later this summer, pending permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection, but in the meantime, Fitzpatrick needs an indication from the town that it will accept the open space and infrastructure planned for the development.

Plans are to offer for acceptance an extension of Aster Lane to Spurwink Avenue, creating a second means of access to the neighborhoods currently accessible only from Stephenson Street.

Plans are also to offer more than 8 acres - nearly half of the subdivision's entire acreage - as open space. The total exceeds the 45-percent open-space dedication required by the town for open-space zoning, but at least one councilor was wary of the agricultural conservation easement proposed for 2 of those acres.

"I'm concerned we're going to get sued and have to foot the bill," said Sara Lennon, who cast the lone vote against conditional acceptance.

The town considers agricultural land a top priority for conservation, second only to wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas or habitat. It's the first time an agricultural area has been included in a developer's proposal for open space, but some residents have expressed concern that the parcel falls short of the 5-acre minimum required to qualify as "farmland" under state tax law.

Town officials say it does qualify because the property is considered part of the larger Maxwell Farm, but are also considering an amendment to the zoning ordinance to clarify the town's conservation goal. The Planning Board will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 20, on the amendment, for possible consideration by the Town Council in July. [draft memo]

The agricultural easement will allow coapplicants William and Lois Bamford to essentially sell the development rights of the 2-acre parcel, while retaining ownership and continuing to farm it. "In other words the Maxwells or the Bamfords agree that that parcel cannot be developed, but it can continue to be used as agricultural open space," said McCullough. "That is identified as one of the top priorities in the comprehensive plan for preserving agricultural land, (and) this is an opportunity to do that," he said.

If, however, the parcel does not legally qualify for an agricultural easement it would be offered simply as open space, McCullough said.

In addition to the agricultural land, Fitzpatrick is planning to offer 1.52 acres next to existing town open space, and another 4.88 acres to be held by the homeowners association but with a public easement connecting to other town trails.

Conditional acceptance is the town's first step in accepting infrastructure associated with a major development, said Town Planner Maureen O'Meara. "I think of conditional municipal approval as an opportunity for the Planning Board and the council to make sure they are working on parallel tracks," she said. "The project touches base with the council and says, 'Here's the roads we're laying out, here's the other infrastructure we're proposing, does it look like we're moving in the right direction?

"Once the road is built, once the project is fully underway, that's when developers will come back to you and ask you to accept the road, ask you to accept the open space, that's when you get to look at deeds and make sure everything is t-crossed and i-dotted," O'Meara said.