Standish will sell a piece of town-owned property to a nonprofit soccer club for $1, ending a period of uncertainty about what would happen to a parcel of land originally donated to the town for soccer fields.

The 22-acre parcel at 16 Moody Road was given to the town in 2014 by Walter Butler with the understanding that it would be used for soccer fields. But the fields were never built, and town councilors decided to sell it and another piece of town-owned property.

Butler, who is now a town councilor, objected to the sale and filed a complaint in court to try to stop the town from moving forward with accepting bids. His complaint was dismissed following a meeting with a Cumberland County Superior Court judge after an attorney for the town clarified that Butler could bid on the property because it is unlikely the winning bid would be awarded before his term ends this month.

The town council voted unanimously Tuesday in support of rejecting the two bids received on the property – neither of which met the minimum bid – and to authorize the town manager to negotiate the sale to the Bonny Eagle Soccer Club. The nonprofit currently leases a field in Buxton and has been looking for better space.

Butler, who said he would build a soccer field if he was able to buy back the land, supports selling it to the soccer club.

“I think it’s the best outcome I could have asked for, to preserve the intent it was donated for to start with,” he said Wednesday.


Raising money for the project will be a hurdle, Butler said, but he hopes the community will support it, and he would like to participate in the process.

Town leaders and a soccer club board member say they have talked to the local Little League and football organizations about partnering with the soccer club to raise money to build fields for all three sports.

“It’s very exciting,” said Holly Stewart, a soccer club board member. “This is a perfect resolution to all of this that has been going on.”

The decision to sell two parcels of town-owned land was made in 2021, at a scary time in the middle of the pandemic when the town was facing a budget gap of hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Councilor Gregory LeClerc, who was chairperson at the time.

Walter Butler stands on the edge of a 22.42-acre parcel he donated in 2014 to the town of Standish, which was intended to become a six-field soccer complex. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The parcels were put up for sale through a sealed-bid process this spring, with a minimum bid set at $300,000 for the Moody Road land. The council reserved the right to reject any bid.

Town officials maintained that the sale was legal because the deed did not contain any covenants or use restrictions that limited the town’s use of the property to recreational purposes. Butler said when he donated the land, town officials had been planning to build an athletic complex with six fields, but those plans never moved forward.


The town says it would have been illegal to give the land back to Butler or his business, Butler Castings Realty, because municipalities can’t give away public property. Town rules and the council’s code of ethics also prevent any sitting town councilor from buying town-owned property. Ultimately, Butler was allowed to submit a bid because it would not have been awarded while he is still in office.

Councilor Brandon Watson said before Tuesday’s vote that he was discouraged by the “deplorable comments” in the community over the situation with the land. He encouraged the council to take the opportunity to “do not only what is right legally, but to to what is good and right morally” and sell the land to the soccer club.

LeClerc said selling the land to the club is a “win-win” for everyone.

“I think this carries out the intent of the gift,” he said.

The land will be sold to the club “as is” but with a number of conditions. It can only be used to develop athletic playing fields, which must be done within 10 years. Ownership will revert back to the town if the soccer club doesn’t make the fields, if the club dissolves or merges with another entity, or if it stops operating as a nonprofit. The club will not be allowed to sell the land without the town’s consent.

Town Manager Tashia Pinkham will work with attorneys for the town and soccer club to negotiate the terms and make adjustments as needed to ensure the land can be used for other types of playing fields, not just soccer.

Townspeople who spoke at the meeting said they supported selling the land to the soccer club.

“I have two words: Well done,” said resident Izzy Higgins.

The Bonny Eagle Soccer Club kicked off a $300,000 fundraising effort Wednesday with a GoFundMe campaign.

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