THOMASTON — Thomaston Select Board approved a workshop proposal for the Thomaston Green from Mathew Eddy, Executive Director of Midcoast Council of Governments. The proposal is made up of three phases, with the first public meeting tentatively set for Sept. 15.

Eddy’s services are paid for by the dues Thomaston pays as members of Midcoast Council of Governments.

The Thomaston Green, the informal name given to the space on Route 1 that was once the site of the Maine State Prison, has been the subject of multiple votes over the past few years.

The most recent vote on the space was June 14, 2022. Eddy said this vote left the town with a “split community.”

Eddy said his process would bring together folks who represent all sides of the Thomaston Green issue, determine what all residents think is important for the space and “establish a plan for the community to move forward.”

This discussion would include a presentation of “a compilation of all the material you put together on the site,” Eddy said. “There has been a lot of work on the site going back quite a few years,” he added.

Eddy said he would then put together an action plan and bring it to the public to determine if they find it acceptable to move forward, and finally he would bring it before the Thomaston Select Board again.

Board member Pete Lammert asked how Eddy would handle misinformation.

Eddy said he would take it as an assumption the information provided by the town was accurate and correct. “I can’t approach it any other way,” he commented.

Resident Noreen Mullaney said the town already held multiple meetings on the Thomaston Green, and wondered how Eddy would operate.

Eddy said anyone who has an interest in the discussion would be invited. “The whole idea is that you have everybody,” he added. “…It’s really about getting people to talk through and find some commonalities.”

Pollution Control Superintendent John Fancy clarified the town would advertise a meeting about the Thomaston Green, invite anyone who had an interest to be there and Eddy would facilitate the meeting, gather the information and make the presentation.

Resident Peggy McCrea asked how this would be different than the previous meetings. “It seems like we keep going round and round,” she said.

“I think you have kept going round and round,” Eddy said. “And you’ve moved from proposal to proposal to proposal.” He said his process would outline the steps the town will take to develop portions of the Green, the steps they will take to not develop portions of it and how they would get there.

McCrea said she thought that plan had already been made.

Eddy said that was not clear to him.

Select Board member Bill Hahn said they did have those meetings, but it was fifteen years ago now and things had changed.

McCrea said she just hoped people would attend the meeting, saying the town had to really “beat the bushes” to find volunteers for the comprehensive plan.

Eddy said he would first present his information to town employees to make sure it was accurate, and he had a lot of material already from multiple sources.

The board agreed to move forward with Eddy’s proposal.

The town voted on two opposing articles for the Thomaston Green at the June 2022 town meeting. One article was a citizen’s petition dedicating the entire 15.6 acre space “permanently” as a park. The other article was drafted by the town attorney as a “counter article” to allow the town to determine the future of the space.

Those in favor of the citizen’s initiative said the word “permanent” was necessary to apply for grants and other funding sources. Those against the article said the word “permanent” restricted the space from being used for anything else – including a fire station. Multiple residents and municipal officers and employees argued the town needs a new fire station and other emergency services buildings, and the former prison site is the best option.

During a public hearing on the articles, attorney Amanda Meader, representing the Friends of the Thomaston Green, and attorney Paul Gibbons, representing the town of Thomaston, agreed the wording of the citizen’s initiative would prevent a fire station from being built on the property.

The citizen’s petition was narrowly voted down, 369-347, and the town’s counter article was passed in another close race, 368-324.

Prior to that, Thomaston brought two developments for the space to voters June 2020. Both projects were voted down, and multiple residents voiced a desire to keep the space from being developed in the future.

A full recording of the meeting can be viewed at: townhallstreams.com/towns/thomaston_me.