Cumberland voters approved two controversial referendum questions on Tuesday that will allow the town to establish its first public beach and connect the dead end of Harris Road to Longwoods Road.

Voter turnout was high, with 4,593 (74 percent) of the town’s 6,200 registered voters casting ballots. Both referendum questions passed with 53 percent support.

On the beach question, the vote was 2,372 to 2,126 to authorize town officials to borrow $3 million to buy about 25 acres of the Payson estate at 179 Foreside Road. It includes nine acres near the road, a half-mile right of way to the waterfront, and 14 acres of shorefront and tidal property with a nearly half-mile-long beach and a 220 foot-long pier.

The town plans to buy the land from developers who’ve negotiated a contract to purchase 104 acres of the Payson estate, which was listed for $6.5 million, and plan to develop a 10-lot subdivision. If the referendum is approved, they have agreed to let the town develop a 1.5-mile public hiking trail around the entire estate.

Supporters said it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to provide public waterfront access in a coastal town that has only two small, carry-in boat launches. Opponents, many of whom live in the adjacent Wildwood neighborhood, which has an abutting beach, questioned the cost, legality and feasibility of the town’s proposal.

On the road question, the vote was 2,344 to 2,044 to allow the town to build a 500-foot extension of Harris Road as part of a contract zone agreement that the Town Council unanimously approved for a developer in July. The extension will make Harris – the town’s longest dead-end public way – a through street between Tuttle Road, a major artery to Interstate 295, and Longwoods Road, which is part of Route 9.

Developer Justin Fletcher agreed to give the town one acre of land for the extension in exchange for pending approval to build an second house on an undersized lot at 3 Longwoods Road. While town officials said the extension would improve traffic flow and public safety, Harris Road residents said it would increase traffic volume and speed through their neighborhood.

Kelley Bouchard can be reached at 791-6328 or at:

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