North Yarmouth residents spent nearly six hours deliberating over warrant items at the annual Town Meeting held at Wescustogo Hall Saturday. Kristen McNerney / The Forecaster

North Yarmouth residents voted at Town Meeting on Saturday to enter into an agreement to conserve Sharp’s Field through a conservation easement and increase the 2022 budget by just over $100,000.

Residents also voted to expend for $42,465 to purchase 9 acres of undeveloped land along Greely Road near Knight’s Pond from the Royal River Conservation Trust for public access.

The Sharp’s Field measure would prohibit commercial development on the 2.6-acre parcel behind Town Hall at 10 Village Square by granting an easement to to a third party; Selectman Jim Moulton proposed turning the easement over to School Administrative District 51.

Matt Sharp, a longtime lacrosse coach at Greely High School who donated a portion of the property to be used as a playing field for the school in the early 1980s, sold the property to the town for $500,000 in 2000. Sharp said in an interview with The Forecaster that the contract he signed in 2000 stipulated that 1.5 acres of the property would be “determined and defined by the seller.” Sharp said he made it clear after the contract had been signed that the acreage would be retained as an athletic field. The verbal deal was finalized with members of the Select Board, Sharp said.

Since then, some residents and members of the Select Board have felt the promise has come under attack.

“We need to have a third party oversee it because there are a group of people going after public properties in town and trying to sell them to developers,” Selectman David Reed said.

In an interview with The Forecaster, Reed cited a February letter from former selectman and current Budget Committee member Steve Palmer to Sharp and Town Manager Rosemary Roy that expressed an interest in exchanging Sharp’s Field for another recreation site at the Community Center. Reed said he feared if Sharp’s Field wasn’t preserved, developers would want to build there.

“This clears up any debate about the intended use of the field,” Selectman Jim Moulton said at Town Meeting.

Moulton said he spoke with SAD 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter about entering into the agreement.

“There have been a few attempts since 2015 to try to do something else with the property and we need someone else to keep an eye on it,” Budget Committee member Linc Merrill said.

Some residents were concerned that the third-party agreement would prohibit voters from further deliberation about the future use of the field.

“The town is giving away control,” Scott Kerr said.

“We should not be voting on an idea, we should be voting on a well-constructed plan,” Gay Peterson said.

Members of the Select Board clarified that an easement is not the same as a sale or transfer, and the land would remain public property.

At the meeting, residents also voted to increase the fiscal year 2022 municipal budget from just less than the $3.9 million approved by the Select Board in April to an estimated $3.96 million by adding $100,000 to capital improvement reserves and around $1,600 for public safety. The current municipal operating budget is around $3.3 million.

According to Draven Walker, executive assistant to the town manager, the money added to capital improvement reserves make up for the fund being cut back during the past year so the town can catch up on road improvements.

The addition to public safety will allow the town to contract with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office for speed control.

Walker said in April the projected tax rate for FY22 will be $16.81 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from the current rate of $16.55. The final tax rate will not be set until next month, according to the tax assessor’s office.

With a $16.81 tax rate, the owner of a home worth $500,000 would pay $8,405 in property taxes.

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