BUCKFIELD — After concerned neighbors showed up at the Buckfield selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 1, selectmen voted to invite the new property owner for a Christmas tree farm to meet with abutters to discuss their concerns.
The property in question is located on Faunce Road and abuts former Selectmen Chair Cheryl Coffman and her husband, Gene’s, property. The owner is listed as BKM Properties LLC with an address on Maine Mall Road in South Portland.
Selectman Maida DeMers-Dobson said she’s received several calls about the project wondering what it’s true purpose is.
“It may be that the congruence of the upcoming vote on recreational marijuana kind of makes everyone paranoid about a large building, but there are questions about that,” she said.
Concerns raised by neighbors include:
- the road being blocked by a trailer, which was almost hit by a school bus, and later blocked by cement trucks.
- the new building to process the Christmas trees was erected on a right of way.
- an easement request on the Coffmans’ land from the Buckfield Village Corporation (BVC) to connect water to the property.
- what the demand on the town’s water supply could be.
- fire safety.
“Regarding the right of way, the town of Buckfield, in my opinion, should not be getting into land issues between landowner and abutting landowner,” Town Manager Cindy Dunn said. “That’s not the town’s responsibility.”
“It seems like it’s quite a bit more than the right of way encroachment,” Selectman Mike Iveson said.
As for the easement request from the BVC, Gene Coffman said he didn’t know anything about it until BVC Supervisor Lou Williams showed up and said there would be digging on the Coffmans’ land. Cheryl Coffman said she was not informed that Friday, Oct. 28’s BVC meeting was an official meeting.
“That may have been a miscommunication but that’s not what we understood at the time,” she said.
Dunn clarified that the Friday’s BVC meeting had been recessed from Thursday, Oct. 27.
“The reason why it was recessed [is] the Coffmans were contacted about possibly attending this meeting to discuss some options about connecting this waterline to the existing main that the BVC paid for to connect water services to the Coffmans’ property,” she said.
“Just for clarity, the only option that was given to us was an easement. There was no other option,” Cheryl Coffman said.
“That is the only option that affects you folks,” Dunn responded.
Before the meeting, BVC Chairman Glen Holmes said the water district “offered to buy an easement from them at a reasonable cost.” The BVC has contacted legal counsel to see what its options are, but no formal action has been taken against the Coffmans yet, he said.
Cheryl Coffman requested selectmen send a letter to the new property owners and invite them to come discuss their project and address the neighbors’ concerns.
“We are feeling they are not being truthful with us,” she said. “I was just a little upset that so much had happened so quickly without us having an opportunity of figuring out what’s going on.”
Holmes, who was also at Tuesday’s meeting, cautioned against inviting a private landowner to a public venue to explain what they’re doing on their own land.
“I think they would probably shy away from a public forum,” he said, suggesting the town give the abutting landowners’ contact information for the new landowner to contact.
Dunn suggested she contact the landowner, let them know there are some concerns from neighbors, and invite the interested parties to meet at the Municipal Building.
“The town’s only role is providing the space,” she said. “It’s just an neighbor-to-neighbor conversation.”
Selectmen voted to have Dunn do so.
In other news, selectmen:
- voted to go to court over an unpermitted junkyard at 17 Depot St. after the property was not cleaned up by the Monday, Oct. 31 deadline.
- accepted the Library Committee’s Accession and Deaccession Policy with grammatical corrections for items donated to the Zadoc Long Free Library, as storage space is limited. Wright and Iveson voted for accepting and DeMers-Dobson voted against.
- did not approve including eligible employees’ domestic partners for insurance coverage through the Maine Municipal Employees Health Trust.
- accepted the town’s financial report from July 1-Oct. 14.
- appointed Janet Iveson to a two-year term on the Community Day Committee.