Freeport officials may give athletic fields on Pownal Road to Regional School Unit 5 to avoid going through an after-the-fact environmental review of seven fields that were built last fall on Hunter Road.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection suggested the way out after Seacoast United Maine’s proposal to build an indoor-outdoor soccer complex on adjacent land fell through in February.

The 19.7-acre Hunter Road field project was designed to cover less than 20 acres to avoid an extensive and more costly DEP review, said Town Manager Dale Olmstead. The town sought and got a basic stormwater management permit.

DEP officials have since determined that because the town owns the 60-acre swath between Hunter and Pownal roads, the field development area actually exceeds the 20-acre limit and so requires a comprehensive environmental review.

DEP Project Manager Lisa Vickers outlined the town’s options in a letter to Olmstead dated May 11.

“The first option (is) for the town to apply for a site law permit,” Vickers wrote. “The second option (is) for the town to divest (itself) of any ownership of the existing recreational fields on Pownal Road.”

Vickers wrote that the DEP believes town officials “did their due diligence in determining permitting requirements” before building the Hunter Road fields.

The DEP doesn’t believe “that either the town or the (Freeport Economic Development Corp.) acted with the intent to circumvent the department’s rules,” she wrote.

The Pownal Road fields were maintained by Freeport’s school department before it consolidated with Durham and Pownal schools in 2009, Olmstead said. Town officials considered giving the fields to RSU 5 back then, but dropped the idea because some town councilors opposed it.

Olmstead explained the options to the Town Council in executive session Tuesday night. The council directed him to present the choice at a council meeting in June.

Olmstead said he has talked with school officials in recent days about transferring ownership, and they’re open to the idea.

A full DEP review would cost $20,000 to $40,000 and encompass all aspects of the project, including funding, design, wildlife, groundwater, wastewater, historical and wetlands impacts.

The town bought the 38-acre Hunter Road property and built the fields last fall with $2.3 million appropriated by the council from reserve funds. L.L. Bean contributed $500,000 to the project.

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

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