FALMOUTH – Town officials are making progress in their search for private or public land worth a total of $1.25 million to place in conservation as part of a pending redevelopment deal for the former Plummer-Motz and Lunt elementary schools.

A 31-year-old federal conservation restriction on the 20-acre school complex on Lunt Road must be transferred to other land so the town can sell the former school property to OceanView at Falmouth.

The conservation restriction must be transferred to land that isn’t now protected from development, town officials said. The land must have a total appraised value of $1.25 million, like the former school property, and the transfer will need federal approval.

Town officials are talking about buying two privately owned parcels:

• 133 acres on Blackstrap Road known as Hundred Acre Woods, for about $1 million. The tract is in north Falmouth, near the Windham and Cumberland town lines.

• 13 acres off Pleasant Hill Road that are owned by Louise and Howard Reiche Jr., for about $565,000. The parcel is on the southern shore of the Presumpscot River, near the Portland line and Interstate 295.

They’re also considering two town-owned parcels:

• The 60-acre North Falmouth Community Forest, off Babbidge Road, near Hundred Acre Woods and the Lowell Preserve in Windham.

• Four acres known as the Brown property, off Route 88, near Underwood Park.

On Monday, the Town Council authorized Town Manager Nathan Poore to negotiate options to buy the private land and to seek appraisals on all four properties.

“Once we have the appraisals, we can piece together what we need to convert the conservation restriction to other properties,” Poore said Tuesday.

The council decided in January to sell the school complex for $3.25 million to OceanView, a 60-acre retirement community next to the complex.

The $25 million project would add more than 60 senior-housing units to Falmouth’s property tax base, increase OceanView’s annual tax bill by $323,000, allow the town to establish a community recreation center and provide a variety of other public amenities.

The federal conservation restriction prevents the school property from being developed for anything other than public recreational uses. The restriction was added to the school land in 1981, when the town received a $20,000 grant from the National Park Service to make recreation improvements.

The town’s pending option to buy Hundred Acre Woods, which is owned by several partners based in New Gloucester, targets a price of $950,000 to $1 million. The parcel is approved for an 18-lot residential subdivision, Poore said, which is why the town will likely pay more than the taxable value of $414,000.

The Reiche property off Pleasant Hill Road is under-assessed at $139,600 because it’s designated as open space, said Town Assessor Anne Gregory. If it were assessed as developable land, its taxable value would be closer to $500,000, she said.

No back taxes are owed on either private property, Poore said.

The council will vote on any resulting land purchase and transfer of conservation restrictions. The purchase would be covered by the price that OceanView is paying for the former school properties.

OceanView expects to start redeveloping the former school complex in January.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at [email protected]