UNION — Following a second two-hour discussion with the public Aug. 17, the Union Select Board decided the town would keep the tax-acquired property on Coggins Hill Road.

The motion to keep the land included the requirement that the town would place an easement on the property to prevent development.

The board will hold a public workshop to develop the easement.

There were three offers for the property, which the town seized due to back-taxes and then decided to sell through a realtor.

Two offers were from private residents who were abutters to the property.

A third offer was from a nonprofit group, the Coggins Hill Preservation Association. This group is made of current and former Union residents who wanted to purchase the land and preserve it for public access.

Representatives for each offer were able to make their case to the board again during the meeting.

Wendy and Bruce Reinemann of Guini Ride Farm made an offer of $50,000 for the land.

Wendy Reinemann said she and her husband had been profitably farming the neighboring land for 20 years, and hoped to use the abutting property to expand that operation.

Board member Josh White, who recused himself from all votes related to the property, made an offer with neighbor Scott Bisset. Their offer was for $75,000.

White said he and Bisset updated their offer to become more compliant with the comprehensive plan, and agreed to leave 90% of the land undeveloped.

Several members of the association spoke about their offer of $49,375 for the property.

Kathleen Thornton talked about the work the association members put into their offer.

Since the last Select Board meeting the association incorporated as a nonprofit with bylaws and articles of incorporation. They formed a board and acquired insurance.

Thornton said the group guaranteed they would be able to provide legal, public access to the Coggins Hill property, and would pay in lieu of taxes in the same amount as property taxes.

Town Manager Jay Feyler offered the board a fourth option. Feyler said after consulting with the town attorney, it would be possible for the town to keep possession of the property.

As part of this decision to keep the land, the town can also contract with blueberry companies to harvest the berries that grow on the property, Feyler said.

Board member Bill Lombardi said he felt the best option was for the town to keep the land, and he would be voting no on all three offers with that in mind.

After much discussion between the board and the members of the public in attendance, the board attempted to vote on a sale to the Reinemanns and then to the association. Both votes were unable to gain a majority to pass.

Board members James Justice and Martha Johnston-Nash voted to sell the property to the Reinemanns.

Johnston-Nash said she hoped the association could reach a compromise with one of the private sellers, as she wanted the land in private hands.

Justice said he also wanted the land to go to a private seller, and he felt Guini Ridge Farm was the best choice, as they were already a successful farming operation.

Chair Adam Fuller said he originally supported selling to a private citizen, but changed his mind. Fuller said he viewed the citizens group as a way to take a chance on the public.

Fuller voted to sell the property to the Coggins Hill Preservation Association.

Following the two votes, Lombardi made a motion for the town to retain the property. He later amended the motion to include an easement to restrict future development of the land.

Board Chair Adam Fuller said this would not be his first choice for the land, but he did not want to extend the discussion any further.

Fuller said he would like to set a workshop to discuss the language of the easement.

Lombardi said he hoped the public interest in preserving the land would extend to this workshop, and he would like to include a real estate attorney to ensure the language was correct and legal.

All four members of the board voted in favor of the town retaining the land, while White maintained his abstention.

Some members of the public in attendance expressed concern about this decision.

Association member Heather Jackson said she felt anxious about it.

Greg Grotton asked about who would maintain the land, and if there would be signage and public access.

Leanne Sebrey, whose entire family previously spoke in favor of the association’s purchase, asked if property abutters would be notified should the board change its mind about keeping the property.

These questions and concerns will likely be addressed at the workshop regarding the easement, which will be set at a future board meeting.

The next Union Select Board meeting will be Sept. 7 at 6:30 p.m.

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