APPLETON — Four months after voters at Town Meeting in Appleton narrowly approved the sale of 17 acres of public property, the vacant, wooded parcel hit the market on Oct. 19.

Within a day of the Select Board’s unanimous vote Oct. 11 to contract with Camden Coast Real Estate to market the West Appleton Road lot, the listing was posted to at least six online real estate sites.

And although the town initially told voters during June’s Town Meeting vote that the land was worth $55,000, it is now on the market for more than twice that amount — $145,000. That is the going market value for the parcel, which is zoned residential and can be subdivided, according to Camden Coast Real Estate’s market analysis prepared in September for the town.

If realized, that amount could pay the whole bill for the professional property revaluation Appleton is expected to contract for soon to comply with state law, something way overdue.

Indeed, the “primary” reason for the sale of the land was “to raise money so we can do a town-wide revaluation of all properties,” according to Peter Beckett, Select Board vice chair.

“That was the original thrust, that was the top priority, and we think we will have to do in the next couple of years,” Beckett said.

It has been about 15 years since the last revaluation, he said, mirroring language in a Town Meeting warrant voted on in June.

Article IX, Section 7 of the Maine Constitution says such “general valuations shall be taken at least once in 10 years.”

Accompanied by five photos, Camden Coast’s listing describes the parcel this way: “Conveniently located close to Gibson Preserve, the Appleton Preserve, the West Appleton Golf Club, and many Midcoast amenities, this mature wooded lot offers various potential configurations. Keep the lot as one parcel and enjoy a private spot to call home or use the ample road frontage to your advantage and develop. Power available along West Appleton Road and easy access to the property makes this versatile lot desirable- come take a look today and bring your ideas.”

Both the land sale and the revaluation were among three related questions on successful warrants at the June 22 Town Meeting. The land sale, at the core of the matter, nearly lost.

The warrants were Articles 27 through 29. The former read as follows: Shall the Town vote to authorize the establish a Revaluation Reserve Fund?

The Article was accompanied by a Select Board note that explained: “Property sales exceeding assessed value in 2022 suggest the future need for a revaluation. The Town Assessor’s Agent has recommended the Town begin to plan for revaluation, which can cost as much as $130,000. Creating a Revaluation Reserve allows the town to plan for the expense, as opposed to raising all at once. Amounts will be appropriated during town meetings.” The vote was 249 for and 120 against; it passed.

Article 28 dealt with the land sale. It read: Shall the Town authorize the Select Board to sell, via a licensed broker, Map 8 Lot 15, half the town-owned land known collectively as the Grover McLaughlin Lot, containing a total of 17 acres with sales proceeds going to Revaluation Reserve Fund, if approved, or into Undesignated Fund Balance if a Revaluation Reserve Fund is not approved?

The article came with the following note from the Select Board: “The land currently does not yield tax revenue; timber harvest in the nearby Midcoast Lot within the past 5 years yielded $2700 for the Town and this warrant asks permission to harvest prior to sale. The anticipated asking price of each lot is $55,000. If a $200,000 home was built, annual tax assessment for land and building is estimated to begin at $3,000 per lot created. This lot has 800 feet of food frontage, making it possible to become as many as five individual lots with road frontage of 150 feet per lot, per the town’s Building Ordinance. If approved by voters, it is the Board’s intention a committee will be formed to review potential multiple lots and the sale will ultimately help defray the cost of a revaluation, which the town last completed more than 15 years ago.” The article was narrowly passed by a vote of 197 to 193.

On a third, related matter, Article 29, sought voter approval to harvest timber on the land to be sold. It read as follows: Shall the town authorize the Select Board to harvest timber on the town-owned land known as the Grover McLaughlin Lot (Map 8 Lot 5 and Map 8, Lot 15)? It was passed by a vote of 230 to150.

As of the recent marketing of the 17 acres, no timber harvest plan had been advanced. Camden Coast Real Estate advised against a harvest.
According to the Property Tax Division of the Maine Revenue Services, “A Revaluation is a process which creates a solid base of inventory for tax purposes. The Maine Constitution states that all taxes upon real and personal estate, assessed by authority of this State, shall be apportioned, and assessed equally according to the just value thereof. In order to apportion the tax burden equally, the assessor(s) must establish assessed valuations in accordance with just value. Just value is synonymous with market value.”