Concerns raised over rezoning of property near Lake Wassookeag in Dexter

Al Hodsdon, of A.E. Hodsdon Consulting Engineers in Waterville, shows the initial concept of Gerry Marshall's vision for the former high school property near Lake Wassokeag during a Dexter Planning Board meeting on Thursday, May 24, 2012. The proposed plans include cabins near the lake, a campground in the center of the property, apartments in the old elementary school building and apartments on the Grove Street side.
Al Hodsdon, of A.E. Hodsdon Consulting Engineers in Waterville, shows the initial concept of Gerry Marshall's vision for the former high school property near Lake Wassokeag during a Dexter Planning Board meeting on Thursday, May 24, 2012. The proposed plans include cabins near the lake, a campground in the center of the property, apartments in the old elementary school building and apartments on the Grove Street side. Buy Photo
Posted May 28, 2012, at 7:24 p.m.

DEXTER, Maine — The Dexter Planning Board must decide whether or not to recommend zoning changes to the property that contains the town’s former high school.

Al Hodsdon of A.E. Hodsdon Consulting Engineers of Waterville asked for zoning changes on the 42-acre property between Lake Wassookeag and Grove Street that is now owned by Gerald Marshall. Hodsdon presented the board with Marshall’s preliminary plans during Thursday’s meeting.

“We’re working on getting the zones revised or changed to accommodate the plans that Mr. Marshall has for essentially developing that site,” said Hodsdon on Friday. “It will be done in phases. Each phase will be required to meet all of the reviews and conditions of the planning board.”

One issue, said Hodsdon, is the property is currently listed as a residential zone. He said he wants to get that changed to a commercial zone.

“It will enable him to do what he’s planning to do up there. He wants to convert [the former elementary school] to apartments, and I think that’s allowed in the commercial zone, but I’m not sure if it’s allowed in the residential zone.”

Other plans for the property include a campground, five apartments on the west side near Grove Street, four camps and a lodge on the east side near Lake Wassookeag and a toboggan run. Hodsdon said Marshall doesn’t have any plans for the former high school at the moment.

The land on the shore of the lake is listed in resource protection. More than a dozen people attended the meeting, with many expressing concerns because the land is so close to the town’s drinking water intake.

“I’m concerned for the health and welfare for over 2,000 people in the town,” said Pete Mealey of the Dexter Utility District. “That outlet is less than 100 feet from his property.”

“I think they’re concerned for the protection of the lake. That’s our goal too,” said Hodsdon.

Hodsdon said he and Marshall will address the concerns, especially of that of bodily contact with the water. Because a campground is planned for the center of the property, a few people at the meeting were concerned about people swimming in the lake.

“If we put a campground on that hill, campers are going to want to go swimming,” said Mealey. “Bodily contact with the water is one of the greatest generators of pollutants in the water.”

Hodsdon mentioned during the meeting that a swimming pool could be constructed near the campground to prevent people from swimming in the lake.

On the east side, four residential cabins will be built, with a fifth building in the middle being a lodge, said Hodsdon. The cabins are intended for Marshall’s children.

The cabins and lodge would be about 20 to 50 feet beyond the 100-foot setback, said Hodsdon. That land is currently in resource protection, which Marshall would like changed. The reason the land is in resource protection is because the slope of the land is greater than 20 percent, said Hodsdon.

“I believe the slope is not over 20 percent for the whole area. Some are slightly over and some a little bit less,” said Hodsdon.

Board member Sherman Leighton said that measuring of the slope increments could be decreased to see if the lot could come out of resource protection.

Hodsdon added that because the high school is connected to the town’s sewer system, septic systems would not be needed.

The planning board agreed to have Hodsdon and Marshall back for its next meeting on June 13 so they could present better detailed plans. A member of the Maine Department of Environment Protection also will be present.

A public hearing on the rezoning of the property is slated for June 28.

“I’m optimistic that we can work out the details to come up with the solutions to allow Mr. Marshall to do what he’s envisioned here,” said Hodsdon. “I think he has excellent visions of what he can do there. He can create jobs and still protect the lake.”

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