Controversy over Freeport’s athletic fields continues as the Maine Department of Environmental Protection reviews the construction permit it issued in June for the athletic fields on Hunter Road, which were built last fall.

DEP officials are checking the basic permit in the wake of the Town Council’s decision Feb. 28 to reject a zoning change that would have allowed Seacoast United Maine to build an indoor-outdoor soccer complex next to the fields.

The Seacoast project, which would have been built on land provided by the town, would have triggered a comprehensive environmental review of all fields and structures built or planned on a 60-acre swath of town-owned land between Hunter and Pownal roads.

Given the town’s involvement in the Seacoast project, DEP officials are trying to determine whether the town should have sought a comprehensive review for entire athletic field development across the 60 acres, said Lisa Vickers, a DEP project manager.

The seven fields on Hunter Road initially qualified for a basic permit, which avoids a comprehensive review, because the project involved less than three acres of impervious surfaces, such as buildings or pavement, and less than 20 acres of developed areas, Vickers said.

However, the town already had an athletic field on Pownal Road, north of the 12-acre parcel where Seacoast planned to build an indoor soccer arena and one outdoor artificial-turf field. The soccer club planned to build a second outdoor artificial-turf field on land next to the Hunter Road fields that would have been leased from the town.

The Hunter Road fields were designed to fit on 19.7 acres so they wouldn’t trigger a costly comprehensive environmental review, said Town Manager Dale Olmstead. A full review could cost the town $20,000 to $40,000, he said.

Under a comprehensive review, the DEP looks at the funding, design and overall impact of a project, including noise, wildlife, fisheries, groundwater, wastewater and historical effects, Vickers said. Before issuing a basic permit, DEP reviews a project’s erosion-control measures and site plan.

Whether the DEP requires a comprehensive review or not, it’s unclear whether the developers of the Hunter Road fields will be able to build a $575,000 recreational lodge, which was promoted as part of the project but wasn’t on the site plan approved by the DEP.

L.L. Bean contributed $500,000 to the field project in May, about a month after the Town Council decided to buy the 38-acre Hunter Road property and build the fields for $2.3 million.

David Latulippe, head of C.J. Developers, secured an option to buy the property, developed a field project and offered it to the town. Latulippe and the Freeport Economic Development Corp., a town-funded agency for which Latulippe was a board member and is now president, shepherded the field project through the permitting and review process.

Kate Arno, who is now a town councilor, signed the DEP permit application for the Hunter Road fields in May, when she was president of the Freeport Economic Development Corp. Arno didn’t respond to a call for comment Friday.

DEP officials will determine whether the fields project requires a comprehensive review within a few weeks, Vickers said.

Even if it decides to do a full review, it won’t prevent the town from using the fields after they open officially on July 1, she said.

 

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