SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Town Manager Don Lagrange presented selectmen Tuesday with a list of conservation easements in the town held by Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT), raising the issue of the best use of the remaining properties on the town’s property tax rolls.
Given that about half of the town is within the boundaries of Acadia National Park, Lagrange said he was curious about other properties with the same tax-exempt status and asked MCHT for the list.
Chairman Tom Benson asked if there is a need to encourage the preservation of land for future housing development. Lagrange’s response indicated that his concerns were much broader.
“You need to make good use of what you have left,” he said.
Benson acknowledged the implications.
“I guess it’s food for thought,” Benson said.
Two properties in the town are owned by MCHT, a 10-acre parcel on the Cable Crossing Road and 67 acres near the end of the Trap Mill Road north of the Seawall Campground in Acadia National Park.
Three properties are held in conservation easements. They are the 2-acre Chris’ Pond property owned by the town, a 17-acre parcel on the Manset shore known as the Elderling property and the 35.9-acre Ravenwood property abutting the national park and situated in both Southwest Harbor and Tremont.
In response to selectman Lydia Goetze’s remarks about parking issues at the Cable Crossing Road property, Benson said he believes MCHT should accommodate the people using their properties. Parking should be developed and access encouraged in order for the properties to be more “usable to the public,” he said.
Selectman Chad Terry agreed, using MCHT’s Kelley Farm Preserve in Tremont as an example. The parking area and community gardens there encourage public use, he explained.
In other business, Goetze told the other board members that the Harbor Committee is recommending lowering the fee for lobster dealers buying off the Manset Pier from $5,000 to $2,300. Selectmen would make any final decision.
In response, Benson said the committee has not come to the board with their recommendation. He made it clear he was no fan of the change.
“I think we should go up instead of down,” Benson said. “$5,000 is pretty minimal.”