The Saco City Council on Monday granted a two-year contract zone extension for The Ecology School, which plans to build a campus on conserved farmland in a rural part of the city.

Councilors first approved a contract zone for the nonprofit school two years ago, but a lawsuit slowed down the process and the contract zone was set to expire in February. The extension will allow leaders of the nonprofit school to seek site plan approval through the Planning Board.

The 6-1 vote by the council to approve the extension came despite renewed concerned from neighbors about the number of students on campus and other issues, including bus traffic on Simpson Road. Councilors approved several amendments to the contract zone, including requirements to conserve a cemetery, add a public walking trail on the property and limit the number of day and residential students that can be on campus at one time.

The school, currently located at Ferry Beach, purchased River Bend Farm on Simpson Road for a school campus that will include dormitories and space for educational programs focused on ecology and agriculture. The school hired green architects to design low-impact, energy-efficient buildings for the campus, which could include two dormitories and a dining hall.

The 105-acre River Bend Farm includes a mix of farmland, forest and ponds, plus a half-mile of river frontage. It includes a farmhouse build in 1794 and a barn from the 1980s. The farm in 1998 was placed under a conservation easement with the Saco Valley Land Trust by former owner Mary Merrill. Representatives of the Saco Valley Land Trust, Merrill family and The Ecology School in November announced that agricultural conservation stewardship of the farm was transferred to the Maine Farmland Trust. That decision followed the mutual settlement of litigation between the Saco Valley Land Trust and Merrill family.

The school, known throughout the region for its weeklong residential camps, has served 145,000 children and adults over the past 17 years and averages about 12,000 program participants a year.

The school’s plan upset some residents along Simpson Road, a quiet neighborhood where neighbors rallied together in recent years to save the historic Stackpole Bridge. In letters to city officials and at public meetings, neighbors outlined concerns about whether the school is the right fit for a tract of conserved farmland, the number of students and staff using the property, and the effects of things such as bus traffic and lights on the property.

On Monday, city councilors approved an amendment to limit the number of students on campus to no more than 120 students in dorms and 120 daily students, with a limit of 200 at one time.

Councilor Marshall Archer, who represents the ward in which the farm is located, said he understands the concerns from neighbors, but voted in favor of the extension because no reasons to deny it existed. Archer said reasons to deny the extension would be inability of the applicants to complete the project, fraudulent submissions or substantial changes to the plan.

“It has nothing to do with all the valid arguments for and the arguments against,” he said. “I do encourage those opposed to the project to use their citizen rights afforded to them to hold the city accountable.”

The project will be subject to site plan review by the planning board. In a letter included with city council materials, The Ecology School executive director Drew Dumsch said the school will hold a community meeting before the site plan review to provide more details about the school campus and gather feedback from neighbors.

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