[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town of Wells 4-12-2003. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Statement of purpose.
The Town of Wells owns a significant amount of land; some is used for municipal facilities, some is reserved for future use, and some is managed for conservation purposes. Some Town land is subject to conditions that limit or restrict its use in some way. The Town has become increasingly aware of the need to be a responsible custodian of its lands, particularly undeveloped land, and to take steps to preserve land as conservation lands for future generations when it is appropriate to do so. The Town's Comprehensive Plan also recognizes the importance of preserving the Town's rural character and the potential to use Town-owned land to enhance the rural character of the community. The 2002 Comprehensive Plan contains policies and implementation strategies that call for the protection of wetlands and wildlife habitat and to protect, manage and enhance the Town's open space and resource conservation areas.
The 2002 Comprehensive Plan called for the establishment of a process to inventory Town-owned lands to determine the most appropriate long-term use. Recently, the Town completed such an inventory. This chapter recognizes the importance of compiling, maintaining and updating the inventory of Town property, develops a methodology for evaluating newly acquired land to determine appropriate current and future uses, and sets the standards for designating certain Town land as "conservation land" or wildlife commons."
This chapter is adopted pursuant to the home rule provisions of Article VIII, Part 2, Section 1, of the Maine Constitution and 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3001 as well as the Growth Management Act, 30-A M.R.S.A. §4312 et seq., and to implement the Town of Wells, Maine Comprehensive Plan, Year 2000 Update: Toward the Year 2010 (adopted April 12, 2002).
Conservation Commission to inventory Town-owned lands. The Conservation Commission of the Town of Wells shall prepare an Inventory of Town-Owned Land, as directed by the Board of Selectmen, and shall update the inventory from time to time, but at least every three years. The inventory shall identify Town-owned real property, including easements and other interests in land, and shall reference any deed restrictions or covenants limiting the use of said land.
The Conservation Commission shall solicit comments from the Office of Planning and Development and the Planning Board regarding the properties contained in the Inventory, and the Planning Board shall provide those comments, in writing, to the Conservation Commission before the Inventory is submitted to the Board of Selectmen.
Inventory submitted to the Board of Selectmen. The Conservation Commission shall submit the initial Inventory of Town-Owned Land to the Board of Selectmen by September 30, 2003, and thereafter whenever the Conservation Commission updates the Inventory. The Board of Selectmen shall review the Inventory, and any updates thereto, and accept them with such corrections as the Board of Selectmen deems appropriate. Upon approval by the Board of Selectmen, the Inventory shall be filed in the Town Clerk's Office. The Town Clerk shall provide copies of the Inventory to the Town Manager, the Planning Board, and the Office of Planning and Development.
As part of the Inventory of Town-Owned Land, the Conservation Commission shall recommend that the Town designate appropriate parcels of Town-owned land to be reserved as "conservation land" when the Conservation Commission finds that the land, either of its own value or in conjunction with other parcels that are or may be acquired by the Town, will be useful in advancing one or more of the following objectives:
Preserve and enhance wildlife habitat to sustain wildlife.
Serve as a field site(s) for environmental education.
Provide the public with opportunities for nonintensive traditional, typically nonmotorized, outdoor recreation activities, which are dependent on the presence of undeveloped natural features. Nonintensive traditional outdoor recreation activities include hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, fishing, hunting, birding, picnicking, photography, and orienteering.
Large parcels of conservation land that are suitable in size, access, and resource features may additionally be designated as "wildlife commons." A wildlife commons, such as the Fenderson Wildlife Commons, is a site of particular ecological value offering especially good opportunities for nonintensive traditional outdoor recreation, with appropriate size, access, and natural features that would attract public visitation and provide suitable wildlife habitat for a number of species.
When the Conservation Commission recommends that a parcel of land be designated as "conservation land" or "wildlife commons" in accordance with this chapter, the Board of Selectmen shall forward this designation to the Town Meeting for approval. Such designation shall become effective, and the Town's use of the land limited by the designation, only after the designation is confirmed by vote of the Town at any Town Meeting.
The Town may accept donations of conservation land and wildlife commons, either of which may come with restrictions affecting the future use of the property. Any such restrictions are reflected in the inventory prepared by the Conservation Commission. The Town Meeting vote on accepting any donation of land that is subject to restrictions on the development or use of the donated lands shall make specific reference to the restrictions.
Land designated as "conservation land" shall be managed by the Town to preserve the conservation objectives specified in § 66-4A of this chapter. Nonintensive traditional outdoor recreation activities shall be encouraged, provided that these activities do not significantly impair the purpose of sustaining wildlife or threaten public safety. The Town may provide amenities or improvements, such as parking areas, trails, shelters or other small improvements on conservation lands to facilitate use for nonintensive traditional outdoor recreation activities, after consultation with the Conservation Commission.
The Town may cut trees on conservation lands only if there is no significant overall impairment of wildlife habitat. In the case of donated lands, logging will take place only if consistent with the intent of the donor. Logging activity will proceed according to a management plan written by a certified forester, which will be recorded in the Town Assessor's office.
Land designated as "wildlife commons" shall be managed by the Town to preserve the conservation objectives specified in § 66-4B of this chapter. Development of a wildlife commons will be limited to cutting and marking trails, interpretive signage, creation of access points, environmental education, and ecological management to enhance habitat. Construction of any facilities shall take place only if it is necessary to serve these goals. The Conservation Commission shall review any proposals for development on a wildlife commons and make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen regarding the proposal.
Policy regarding the Town's management of conservation lands and wildlife commons shall be drafted by the Conservation Commission and submitted to the Board of Selectmen for review and approval. The Board of Selectmen is authorized to adopt and implement policies relating to the management of conservation lands and wildlife commons, following notice and a hearing.