DEXTER, Maine — In a 4-2 vote on Thursday evening, the Dexter Planning Board moved to recommend zoning changes for Map 8, Lot 16, otherwise known as the Abbott Hill lot, which houses the town’s former primary and middle schools.
The vote immediately drew backlash from the crowd with many condemning the motion.
The 42-acre land parcel, which is owned by Gerald Marshall, borders Big Lake Wassookeag near the town’s drinking water intake. Right now, the shoreland is in shoreland resource protection and cannot be developed.
The planning board voted to recommend to the Dexter Town Council to change the designation from shoreland resource protection to shoreland zone limited commercial. In the same motion, it also voted to change a land use residential zone to land use commercial zone. The vote only applies to the Abbott Hill lot.
“Obviously, I’m not happy with what’s transpiring,” said Norman White, a summer resident who owns land on Lake Wassookeag. “I’m willing to bet that at least 80 percent of the people here feel the same way, but I don’t know what to do to stop it.”
Several other residents voiced concerns after the vote was taken. Dexter Lakes Association president Steve Wintle said he was frustrated that there was no public forum before the vote.
“You couldn’t put that bar any lower for the Marshalls than you did tonight,” said Wintle. “As currently proposed, he can move forward as one single lot and he doesn’t have to prove anything in regard to hydrology, phosphorus loading, termination of soils and wetlands by an experienced person and projection of how this is going to affect the lake.”
Marshall has said that he plans to build four cabins, a lodge and a toboggan run on the west side of the lot near the lake. On the east side near Grove Street, he wants to build apartments. On top of the hill, he plans to have a campground with a swimming pool. He would like to turn the former school gym into a convention center and one of the schools will be transformed into an assisted-living center.
Jana Wood, Dexter’s code enforcement officer, said any development still would have to be approved by the planning board.
Marshall, who urged for a vote on the matter during the previous meeting two weeks ago, said he was pleased with the decision.
“I appreciate your hard work. I know it wasn’t easy,” said Marshall. “Thanks for dealing with this and my impatience.”
Richard Gilbert, chairman of the planning board, said the vote was just the first step of the process. The Town Council now will consider whether to bring the issue before the town in a public hearing.
Town Council Chairman Peter Haskell, who attended the planning board meeting, said the Town Council may review the zoning change during its next meeting on July 12.
Wood said anyone for or against the zoning change should contact members of the Town Council to get their words submitted into the record.
Correction: An article published in Friday’s paper on page B3 incorrectly stated that Gerald Marshall plans to have low-income housing on his property near Lake Wassookeag in Dexter. He does not plan to have low-income housing on the property, but instead plans an assisted living center.