August 14, 2018
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Blue Hill selectmen want to buy shoreline property despite town vote against it

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
The Blue Hill Town Office, as seen in early December.
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

BLUE HILL, Maine — Some town leaders want to revive the proposed purchase of a shoreline house that voters shot down last week.

Residents voted 97-86 in a July 25 meeting against appropriating $458,000 from town funds to buy a house, garage, bunkhouse and two storage sheds on 3.5 acres, including 900 feet of shorefront property, at 270 Salt Pond Road.

But two of Blue Hill’s three selectmen now say that the town should seek to buy the house anyway. They will discuss during their regular meeting on Friday whether they can find a way to keep the property off the market until they can hold a referendum on the purchase in November.

At issue, Selectwoman Ellen Best said, is the town’s long-term need to acquire shorefront land for public economic and recreational use versus residents’ short-term problems with the purchase.

“Access to the shore has become more and more limited. It’s a problem increasingly spoken about among towns on the coast of Maine,” Best said. “The need for coastal access is something that is very important to me for the future of this town.”

The debate comes after Bar Harbor held a similar vote.

Bar Harbor residents voted 1,380-213 in June in favor of buying the former Bay Ferries Limited site off Route 3 for $3.5 million and turning it into a multi-use marina. Bar Harbor Town Council members said that the property would increase public access to the water for residents and businesses and relieve overcrowding in the downtown harbor, which is about a mile away.

Blue Hill selectmen had thoughts similar to Bar Harbor’s when they advocated for the purchase of the house. Although the Salt Pond property technically borders Salt Pond, the water there is briny and flows into Blue Hill Harbor and Blue Hill Bay, Selectmen James M. Schatz said.

But the majority of voters at the town meeting felt differently. Several said that the purchase price was simply too high. Others said that the house was unsuitable for town use, according to The Weekly Packet.

“It’s the Goldilocks syndrome. It’s too this and it’s not enough that,” Schatz said. “When you are shopping for a property for yourself, it’s a lot easier to find something that fits your needs precisely. That’s not what we were looking at.”

Others said that the purchase made no sense, given that Sedgwick has a similar waterfront property, one that includes a dock, just a few miles away.

The Salt Pond Road property’s owner pays about $4,240 in property taxes annually ― a loss the town could live with, given that its municipal budget is about $6.5 million annually, Schatz said.

The town has had shorefront land purchases as a priority since selectmen created the reserve purchase account in 1996, Schatz said. The account has about $700,000 in it.

Schatz said he expects referendum voters would approve the purchase.

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