FALMOUTH – Proposals received for the former Plummer-Motz and Lunt school properties will likely be kept secret to give town officials the best bargaining position in negotiations, Town Council Chairwoman Teresa Pierce said Wednesday night.

Pierce said councilors reached consensus on the matter after discussing their legal responsibilities under the state’s Freedom of Access Act with the town’s attorney, William Plouffe of Drummond Woodsum in Portland. The discussion came during a brief executive session.

In open session, councilors weighed the public’s right to know against their desire to negotiate the best deal for the sale or lease of the 20-acre school complex on Lunt Road.

“I think it’s to the town’s advantage that we at least start out in private dialogue,” said Councilor Chris Orestis.

Councilor Will Armitage mirrored Orestis’ concern that making the proposals public at the start would create a “circus” atmosphere of community members supporting different proposals.

“I’m not interested in turning this into a circus,” Armitage said.

The town is seeking proposals, due Nov. 29, to buy, lease or redevelop the former school properties, which were replaced by the new Falmouth Elementary School on Woodville Road. An appraisal in late 2009 valued the properties at $3 million if there were no zoning restrictions.

Pierce said an order calling for the proposals to be opened and negotiated confidentially will be drafted for consideration at an upcoming council meeting.

Pierce said she would like to seek public input on the proposals at some point, but it was unclear Wednesday night when the proposals would be made public, if at all.

Town Manager Nathan Poore suggested that public comment could be sought when negotiations were completed.

The council has wrestled with the open-meeting law since it decided to put the school complex up for sale or lease in July.

Councilors met privately with representatives of OceanView at Falmouth, the retirement community next to the school complex, immediately after deciding to seek proposals for the town-owned properties.

Councilor Bonny Rodden said the closed-door meeting was inappropriate, but Plouffe said it was legal as long as the council also met secretly with any other interested developers before it formally sought proposals.

Town officials selected CBRE/The Boulos Co. of Portland to market the properties, help review proposals and possibly negotiate a deal. OceanView is expected to submit a proposal to expand its 60-acre campus. In addition, more than 20 people attended a scheduled tour of the school properties on Sept. 28.

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