KENNBUNKPORT – In 2018, voters approved the purchase of an 87-acre tract of land called the Village Parcel for $10 million. The land, along North Street, also has access to School Street.

Once the land was purchased, the board of selectmen appointed a steering committee to guide the planning process for the parcel, which is located just outside an area of town designated as a growth district. There were many meetings, many discussions, public visioning sessions, public comment periods, and more.

Now, the group has issued a report that outlines the work done to develop a plan for the parcel.

Kennebunkport Town Office. Dan King photo

It was presented at the online selectmen meeting on Thursday, July 23, by consultant Robert Metcalf, who noted there was a significant public process as residents voiced what they’d like to see happen with the land parcel.

The Village Parcel Steering Committee outlined several key ideas and priorities in its report, including residential and nonresidential, he said.

The nonresidential targets include preservation of open space for conservation and recreation, reserving land for future use and for limited near- term municipal uses.

The residential piece presents the town with the opportunity to address housing needs of young families, town workers and downsizing seniors that cannot readily be accommodated in the current Kennebunkport market, the report, called A Vision for the Village Parcel, states.

“The biggest part of this is next steps … refining the village parcel vision and coming up with a balance of the uses between preservation, use of open space, future uses and municipal needs,” said Metcalf. He said a second key would be to encourage people to use the property.

Once more steps are determined, the town could create a road map, perhaps with a five-year plan, he pointed out.

“This gives you a framework to hone in on what has been identified,” said Metcalf.

The report notes that the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust could be an invaluable partner and advisor regarding the parcel’s natural resources.

It recommends the Comprehensive Plan Committee be engaged to further evaluate the community priorities that emerged during the visioning sessions; that available zoning  options be evaluated and  the role of the Village Parcel Committee be determined going forward.

Town Manager Laurie Smith pointed out that it would cost nothing to approach developers, show them the vision report, and ask for feedback.

Prior to the town’s purchase, the parcel was permitted for an 80-unit subdivision, and the land partially cleared with a roughed in gravel drive stretching from North Street to School Street. Part of the parcel is in the village residential zone, the rest in the free enterprise zone, according to the report.

Selectmen made it clear they intend to take a measured approach to what happens next, starting with looking at some initiatives that don’t cost much money, like cleaning up the trails through the property that people already enjoy. Chair Alan Daggett said the town could also work on zoning issues for the property.

Selectwoman Sheila Matthews-Bull said the board should “sit on” the report for the time being and decide what the towns needs are as they go along.

“If you put in on the back burner, it stays on the back burner,” said Selectman Mike Weston.

Matthews-Bull said she had concerns about cost.

“We need to look at next steps and decide what we think is important and what we can do with a minimal amount of money and get ready for the future,” said Weston.

Selectmen agreed to have a fuller discussion of the issues at a future meeting.

“When we talk about next steps, I think we need to think about it, develop a plan and follow the plan,” said Daggett.

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