Thursday, September 13, 2001

Cape Elizabeth greenbelt plan moves forward

Published in the Current

The Cape Elizabeth Town Council unanimously accepted the spirit of the proposed Greenbelt Plan for trails throughout the town, while not formally accepting the specific priority recommendations made in the report from the town's Conservation Commission.

In its regularly scheduled September meeting, the council also approved a proposal to develop a master plan for the Gull Crest property.

The Greenbelt Plan proposed a network of trails throughout Cape Elizabeth, linking neighborhoods to each other and to the town center. Some of the trails already exist either formally on state and town land, or informally on private land, said commission chair Dan Chase. Others, Chase said, would have to be built.

In the public comment section of the meeting, several residents spoke in favor of the proposal.

Ogden Williams, a teacher and resident of Cape Elizabeth, suggested further development of the Gull Crest property, and volunteered to help do so next summer.

Mary Beth Richardson of Valley Road near Maxwell's Farm said the informal trails in that area get year-round use.

"Having a formal [trail] system would be wonderful," she said.

A resident of Sweetser Road said she liked the informal trails and wants a formal network, but was concerned about unanticipated uses of the trails, such as all-terrain three- and four-wheelers.

Tim Robinson of Shore Road was present to speak for his family, which owns some of the property on which private trails exist. He said he has found people coming to the trails from other communities and even other states. He was concerned with overuse of trails once they became publicly available.

Peter Mullen of Two Lights Road opposed the plan, which tentatively locates a trail abutting his property. He was concerned about privacy and public foot traffic near his home.

Other residents spoke about the opportunities for the town's student-athletes, with possibilities for both cross-country running and skiing trails becoming available for meets and practices. At present, the schools have to send their teams to other locations for practice and competition.

The council was also concerned about privacy issues and reiterated the Conservation Commission's promise not to locate trails on private land without express permission from the landowners.

Councilor Carol Fritz said she liked the proposal's principles of property rights, respect for wetlands and vegetation.

Councilor Henry Berry said he was concerned that the proposal was too dedicated to the construction of a trail system, with its stipulation that opposition to specific trails shouldn't stop the effort to construct the entire system.

"Certain opposition to a particular trail might well lead to abandonment of a trail," Berry said.

The council voted approval of the vision and goals statements, as well as the guidelines for possible trail expansions. It excluded from approval the priorities for expansion and recommended additional projects.

The next item on the agenda was a proposal from OEST Associates of South Portland to draft a master trail plan for the Gull Crest property between the schools and the transfer station. It was approved unanimously.

In other business, the town abated personal property taxes in the amount of $57.36 owed by the former Shear Madness business. It was deemed too expensive to collect the money, and the person owing the taxes was not present or able to pay.

The council noted that its next two monthly meetings will be held Wednesday nights because of national holidays. The October meeting will be on Wednesday, Oct. 10. The November meeting will be Wednesday, Nov. 14.