Freeport reaches deal to buy land near train stop; eminent domain takeover avoided

Posted Oct. 03, 2012, at 3:18 p.m.

FREEPORT, Maine — The town avoided the use of eminent domain to take property necessary for creating access to Freeport’s new Amtrak train station.

Instead, the town council on Tuesday unanimously approved a purchase-and-sale agreement with Timm Holdings LLC, using $125,000 from the sale of tax-acquired property to make the purchase and to issue parking credits to Timm Holdings.

According to Town Manager Peter Joseph, the town and Timm Holdings have reached a verbal agreement for the sale of the 5 Depot St. property. The council is still waiting for the signed agreement.

“The assumption is that if this purchase-and-sale agreement goes through, the eminent domain will not be exercised by the town and that will essentially go away,” Joseph said.

The council approved the potential use of eminent domain at its Sept. 18 meeting, when it was still unclear whether an agreement would be reached.

Councilors were pleased Tuesday about avoiding the use of eminent domain, and said maintaining a positive relationship with Timm Holdings is crucial to further development.

One major question with the purchase of the property is what will be done with the additional space around the easement.

The easement is for a strip of land in the parking lot between the visitors center on Depot Street and the new Amtrak train platform. Edward Bonney, chairman of the Freeport Train Station Committee, told the council last month that the land is an essential piece needed to guarantee passengers can access the passenger train.

Councilor Kristina Egan said the council should hold a public forum to find out what the community thinks should be done with the remainder of the property.

“My feeling is that this is a large expenditure of public money and there is not a clear plan as to how that land will be used,” Egan said. “Sometime within the next year the planning department should convene meetings to see what the land would be used for. We should be asking people what they would like to see down there.”

Parking was also brought up as a concern.

Egan said she would like to see some sort of charge for parking in the lot at the train station, but other councilors did not agree.

“I don’t know how you would charge,” Councilor Charlotte Bishop said. “We don’t have charging anywhere else in town, but I think they should quickly look at signage for that parking lot.”

Councilors agreed that a public discussion should be held on future uses for the property and that the possibility of expansion of the train station itself might have to be considered.

Joseph agreed to plan for a public hearing within the year.

Amtrak Downeaster passenger train service to Freeport and Brunswick begins on Nov. 1.

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