FAYETTE — The town has reached an agreement with Young Road property owners to buy a 28-acre lot on Hales Pond and Hales Brook that will be converted into a public park.

Town Manager Mark Robinson said Tuesday the agreement between the town government and David and Roberta Manter was signed on Monday and delivered to the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

The property purchase is being funded by grants from the state Land for Maine’s Future program and a U.S. Sport Fish Restoration Fund. A fundraiser spearheaded by Fayette residents raised an additional $35,000 that will be put toward the Manters’ moving costs.

The purchase and sale agreement is “a major milestone,” Robinson said.

The Manters, who are hoping to move near family in the Bridgton area, have not found property on which to build, Roberta Manter said. The town was required to submit an agreement to the state before today, when the grant money was set to expire.

The town is not expected to close on the property until December.

“If we can move that up, certainly it makes it better for the Manters,” Robinson said. “An earlier closing means the earlier they receive payment from the state for their property.”

The state must conduct a standard environmental assessment on the property before the closing. There are several items, including buildings, that must be moved to the Manters’ new property, Robinson said.

“We have a number of people willing to assist the Manters in that relocation effort,” Robinson said. “It will take time to make these things happen. There’s a lot of things that need to be considered.”

The first task for Roberta Manter and her husband will be finding a place to live, which cannot begin in earnest until the spring.

“The problem is seeing what’s underneath the snow,” she said. “You don’t know if you’re on boggy land or if you can build on it.”

Manter said they met with a buyer willing to exceed the town’s offer after residents raised the $35,000 to augment the state grant money and after she and her husband had made up their minds to accept the town’s offer.

Manter said she and her husband decided to stick to their decision.

“We’re impressed the people were that committed to come up with the money that fast,” Manter said. “It’s too special a piece of land not to share with the public.”

The town, with a year-round population of 1,200, raised $35,000 in less than 10 weeks toward the creation of the public park on the Manters’ property, which includes 1,300 feet of water frontage.

Donations came from as far away as South Africa, where a donor has ties to the town, Robinson said, and from residents in the neighboring towns of Readfield and Wayne.

Last year, the Manters agreed to allow the town to proceed with an application, which was ultimately successful, to the state’s Land for Maine’s Future application.

The property has been in the Manter family for 40 years.

The program offered the couple $80,000 for the land, which was its appraised value; however, that compensation was less than the couple expected and not enough for them to find a new home in western Maine near relatives.

The town agreed to raise an additional $30,000 or so in private donations to assist the Manters with relocating and provide for some property cleanup.

Residents at the last annual Town Meeting also approved an agreement with the state, which would have to be renewed every year, to help improve and maintain public access to Hales Pond via the Manters’ Young Road property.

Town crews and equipment would help maintain access, at a cost of up to 25 percent of the total cost, with the state picking up the other 75 percent and providing all materials.

There is limited public access to Fayette’s lakes and ponds, and the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has listed the 70-acre Hales Pond in Fayette as one of the lakes in need of guaranteed public access.

The Manters and the town have a contentious history dating back more than a decade. According to published reports, David Manter threatened to sue the town in 1997 when the town delayed in hearing his tax appeal because it unable to fill openings on the assessment review board.

That same year the town confronted Manter about blocking Young Road. The claim ignited a dispute between the Manters and the town about the rights of the town to an easement over the Manters’ property and who was responsible for maintaining the road.

Robinson said Tuesday that reaching an agreement to purchase the land from the Manters is a sign of building trust.

“I think those who are familiar with the area, with the 40-year history between the Manters and the town of Fayette and the state, can look at this new opportunity as a way to draw a successful conclusion to a saga that has gone on for a number of years,” Robinson said.

“We’ve been able to work cooperatively and successfully and engage many people in fundraising to show their support to not only provide a community park for the area but also to help this family move to what will be a better, more enjoyable next chapter of their lives.”

Craig Crosby–621-5642

[email protected]

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