A two-year-old proposal to build an indoor-outdoor soccer complex on Hedgehog Mountain Road in Freeport hinges on getting a zoning change that’s being scrutinized by many townspeople.

Seacoast United Maine, a soccer club in Topsham that has about 800 members, wants to build two outdoor artificial turf fields and an indoor soccer arena at a total cost of $4 million.

Hoping to develop more playing fields in town, the Freeport Town Council agreed last year to sell 12 acres of town-owned land off Pownal Road to the nonprofit club in exchange for free playing time. The arena would house three soccer fields.

The property, valued at $300,000, is in a rural residential district, where privately owned indoor sports facilities aren’t allowed under the current zoning ordinance.

“But if the town were proposing this project, it would be allowed as a municipal use,” said Town Councilor Rich DeGrandpre.

To move the project forward, the Planning Board and the Town Council are considering zoning alternatives ranging from a project-specific contract zone, which currently is allowed only in commercial districts, to a general zoning amendment, which would allow indoor sports facilities in rural residential areas.

In either case, Freeport officials and others are balancing the limits of strict zoning restrictions against the desire to provide more playing fields for children and adults.

“These are our kids playing on these fields,” DeGrandpre said. “We need to hear from everybody and get a better idea of all the issues. Because a use that may be appropriate (at the Hedgehog Mountain Road site) may not be appropriate in other areas of town.”

The Planning Board has scheduled a site walk at 9 a.m. Oct. 29 so officials and others can get a better understanding of the lay of the land, said Town Planner Donna Larson. The board will issue a recommendation and the council will decide the matter.

If the council approves the zoning change, the soccer club still must secure financing, state environmental permits and approval from the town’s Project Review Board, said Seacoast spokesman Mike Healy, who lives in Freeport.

The club is affiliated with the Seacoast United soccer club in New Hampshire, which operates similar facilities in Hampton and Epping. Club directors would like to start construction in Freeport by next year.

Under the land-sale agreement reached last year, the town would get six months’ exclusive use of one of the outdoor turf fields annually for the life of the fields, plus a 20 percent discount on other playing time at the facility.

“When the agreement was signed, it was understood that a zoning amendment was necessary,” Healy said. “I can’t believe the Town Council would approve a project of this nature and not approve the zoning change necessary to make it happen.”

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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