WAYNE — Voters here on Tuesday agreed to spend $15,000 on legal expenses associated with gaining a clear title to a 118-acre parcel of land on Wilson Pond, but whether the town achieves that goal or not, the 100 or so voters at Wednesday’s Town Meeting say they need a lot more information before deciding what to do with the property.

The town foreclosed on the lot on House Road when owner Robert Pettengill failed to pay taxes for five years. The lot includes 1,500 feet of undeveloped shoreline and some in town would like to see it preserved, either by the town or the Kennebec Land Trust.

The town took ownership of the property in April 2013 after Pettengill had failed to reply to numerous notices about the unpaid taxes, Town Manager Aaron Chrostowsky said last week. Pettengill owes $34,000 on the property, which the town has valued at $400,000.

Attorney Nat Hussey, who represents Pettengill, of Monmouth, said the town has rebuffed Pettengill’s effort to pay the back taxes and reclaim ownership of the land while still conserving much of the property.

Voters on Tuesday agreed by a ballot vote of 178-110 to spend up to $15,000 to quiet the title, a court process that ensures the land is free of any encumbrances. The maneuver, if successful, would allow the town to convey the land to a conservation group, such as the Kennebec Land Trust, which is interested in the lot, or to sell the property at open market value.

Selectmen at Wednesday’s open Town Meeting created a nonbinding straw poll to gauge residents’ sentiment about the property. Selectmen essentially asked voters if they favored the town keeping the property or trying to sell all or portions of it.


“We aren’t looking for a definitive answer,” said Gary Kenny, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “We’re just looking for guidance.”

But many residents said that they lacked the basic information to offer even a nonbinding opinion. The town has hosted a number of informational sessions on the property, but residents were still unfamiliar with the property’s history or even basic details, such as where the property is located.

“I don’t even know why you’re doing this,” resident Ford Stevenson said. “There are so many questions.”

There was an undercurrent of sentiment that favored returning the property to Pettengill or selling it to another party for the $32,000 in back taxes.

“I think Mr. Pettengill should be able to work with the board and get his property back,” resident Mary Farnham said. “I don’t care how many people want it. He should be No. 1.”

Kenny detailed the recent history that led the town to foreclosing on the property in 2013. Kenny said the town sent Pettengill a notice in 2009 warning him that it would put a lien on the property in 30 days if Pettengill did not pay the back taxes or arrange a payment plan. Pettengill did not respond, Kenny said, but because of a procedural error, the town decided to send another notice in 2010, again stating its intention to put a lien on the property without payment or arranged payments. Pettengill never responded until after the town had gone through the foreclosure process, Kenny said. It was only at that point that he attempted to pay the back taxes.


“The town cannot simply sell the property back to the former owner for taxes due after the foreclosure process takes place,” Kenny said.

While many chose not to vote in the straw poll, the overwhelming majority who did favored town ownership and conserving the property.

Wayne voters on Tuesday approved allowing the town to issue licenses for on-premise liquor sales Monday through Saturday by a vote of 246-41 and a separate article allowing Sunday liquor sales, 214-75.

Voters at Wednesday’s open town meeting passed all 36 questions in the warrant with lots of questions but virtually no debate. Voters added another $1,100 to support the Winthrop Food Bank in addition to the $400 the organization supported.

Spending in the municipal budget is down about 1.7 percent, Chrostowsky said, but increases in the school and county budget mean voters will see a tax increase in the 2015-16 fiscal year. Chrostowsky said the tax rate will jump about 33 cents, which means a $33 increase for every $100,000 in home value.

“That’s basically a direct result of the school and county budgets going up,” Chrostowsky said.

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