April 26, 2018
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Hancock voters to decide land swap

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

HANCOCK, Maine — A proposed land swap involving multiple local parties is scheduled to be decided Monday when voters hold their annual town meeting, according to a town official.

Dexter Bellows, chairman of the Hancock Board of Selectmen, said Friday the town and the owners of Hancock Homes, which owns land directly across from the town office on Point Road, would benefit from the deal.

The open session of Hancock’s annual town meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, May 11, at the local grammar school, according to Bellows. Local elections will be held earlier the same day with polls open from 1 to 6 p.m. at the town office.

The land swap, involving portions of and access to an abandoned rail bed that stretches from Youngs Bay to Route 1, would benefit the town three ways:

— Give the town more land next to the town office on Point Road.

— Establish a conservation easement on town-owned waterfront property on Youngs Bay.

— Provide the public with pedestrian access west along the rail bed to the town-owned land, which is not now accessible by a public right of way.

The Crabtree Neck Land Trust recently acquired the section of abandoned rail bed that runs east from Skillings River to Route 1, according to Bellows. He said that before Mount Desert Island was connected to the mainland by the Thompson Island causeway, people used to visit the island by riding trains along the railway to a ferry that left Hancock from McNeil Point.

“Being able to use this trail will allow people to use the land for recreational purposes,” Bellows said. “It’s a beautiful and undeveloped area there with high wildlife value.”

The land trust has agreed to give portions of the rail bed to the town and to Hancock Homes in exchange for the conservation easements, he said.

In other measures, voters also will consider proposed ordinance changes that would allow people to erect wind turbines and a proposed moratorium on water extraction. The moratorium would prohibit anyone from extracting water from the ground and transporting it out of town, Bellows said. Normal extraction for local consumption would be permitted.

Bellows said he knows of no one who is extracting water and removing it from Hancock now. The moratorium, which would last for six months, would give town officials time to update the local water extraction ordinance, he said.

Voters also will consider adopting an overall proposed 2009-2010 municipal operations budget of $1,027,840, of which $503,571 would be funded through local property taxes, Bellows said. The budget does not include local education costs, which will be decided at a later date.

Bellows said there are no contested races in municipal elections. He said some positions on the local planning and appeals boards are likely to be filled by write-in candidates.

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