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Dexter town council to hear from public about Abbott Hill lot changes

Alex Barber | BDN
Alex Barber | BDN
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 Wassookeag during a Dexter Planning Board meeting on Thursday, May 24, 2012.
By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

DEXTER, Maine — The Dexter Town Council will consider support for or concerns related to proposed changes to the Abbott Hill school property lot during a public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Three ordinances are on the table for the councilors. Two of the ordinances are recommended by the planning board, while the third is proposed by the developer.

Gerry Marshall, owner of Gerry’s Used Cars, bought the 42-acre property known as Map 8, Lot 16 in Dexter more than a year ago. The lot has the former Dexter Primary and Middle School and has shoreline on big Lake Wassookeag.

The first ordinance proposed by the planning board would change the property from a residential to commercial zone. It also would allow a campground with 3,000-square-foot sites, add a commercial convention center definition and a review of campground and convention center by the planning board.

The planning board also proposed the second ordinance, which would allow building on slopes of less than 20 percent, allow those slopes to be designated limited commercial zone and keep slopes that are greater than 20 percent in resource protection.

The third ordinance, which is proposed by Marshall and his engineer Al Hodsdon, would change the property from a residential to commercial zone and allow campgrounds with no site dimension requirements.

After hearing feedback from the public, Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs said the council can vote on it that night, table it for another meeting or refer it back to the planning board for further evaluation.

“I’m looking to make a major, major expansion on that property,” said Marshall on Sunday. “Since the early 1950s, it has not been a taxable property for the town because it was a school system. It would be brand new tax dollars for the area.”

In previous planning board meetings, Marshall said 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 transform one of the schools into an assisted-living center.

The planning board meetings were well-attended by the public, with many voicing their concern or opposition to changes to the property, specifically taking the shoreland out of resource protection because the property is near the town’s drinking water intake.

“All I’m asking for is to be treated like everyone else on the lake, not more, just to be treated the same,” said Marshall.

On June 28, the planning board voted 4-2 to recommend to the town council their changes to the property.

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 during the June 28 planning board meeting. “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.”

Members from the Dexter Lakes Association and members of the Dexter Utility District have vocally opposed the proposed development on the property.

Briggs said on Sunday that she won’t recommend one ordinance over another, but hoped a decision could be made to help bring business to Dexter.

“I want business in town. Whatever we can do to bring responsible business to fruition, I’m behind,” said Briggs. “But we need to be mindful of environmental protection. I’m willing to work with any developer who wants to bring the common good to Dexter.”

Marshall said he can provide that.

“The townspeople in general appear to support me tremendously,” said Marshall. “All the local businesses, all the local people, they’re all thumbs up and they’re for me.”

The public hearing will be in the Dexter Town Council chambers at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25.

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