FARMINGTON — The Farmington Conservation Commission is recommending that the town accept a donation of more than 60 acres of land that encompasses a part of Cascade Brook.

In a presentation Tuesday night to the Board of Selectmen, Conservation Committee members called the donation “a rare opportunity” and said the town could benefit from acquiring the land in terms of public recreation, conservation of the stream and its surrounding habitat, and a source of revenue if the town decides to harvest timber from the land.

“I think we would be short-sighted if we didn’t consider this offer,” Patty Cormier, a local forester and member of the Conservation Committee, said Tuesday.

The land is being offered as an unencumbered gift to the town by current owner Marc Fournier, of Lewiston. The plot of land, which includes an area of Cascade Brook known as the Cascades, is behind the Farmington Highway Department, off High Street, and stretches west to Maple Avenue.

The land has an estimated assessed value of $67,000, which translates into $1,200 in property taxes annually. If the town takes ownership of the land, the property no longer would generate tax revenue.

However, committee members and the selectmen were interested in the donation for the opportunity to shelter the land from development and preserving its natural attraction for public use.

“Without knowing any more details, my initial thought is it’s a good deal. We don’t make any more land,” Selectman Matthew Smith said. “I can’t imagine we’ll ever be offered anything like this again.”

As an unencumbered donation, the land would be available for any purpose the town desires. Conservation Committee member Peter Tracy said he envisions the land being a great place for public recreation, given that people now frequent the Cascades and set up camps along the brook.

With the plot of land being on the larger side, Tracy said it could serve multiple purposes, including the harvesting of forest products. Based on a heavy legal harvest estimate, Tracy said the plot of land could generate 202,000 board feet of saw logs worth $23,445, 650 cords of pulpwood worth $7,405, and 650 tons of biomass chips worth $1,950.

In 2006-2007, Farmington generated $16,500 by harvesting timber on the wood lots surrounding the old dump and landfill.

“It won’t make a big difference in your budgets and your tax bills, but it does help,” Tracy said. There would be some costs to the town if it accepts the offer, including $2,000 to $3,000 for the western line of the property to be marked out officially. While the other parameters of the property are marked with blazes, Cormier and Tracey said they were not able to find any markings for the western boundary, though it is listed in the town registry.

Fournier is asking that the town act on the offer by Jan. 1, 2017; however, voters must have the final say on accepting the land, which would need to be done at a town meeting.

Selectmen asked Cormier to contact Fournier and find out whether he is willing to extend that deadline until after Town Meeting in March.

If he is not able to extend the deadline, Town Manager Richard Davis said a special town meeting can be scheduled for earlier than Jan. 1.

In other business, selectmen voted to hold a special board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday to discuss the 2016 tax rate scenarios. Farmington’s current tax rate is $18.50 per $1,000 of assessed property.

Davis said town assessor John O’Donnell is nearly done configuring the town’s assessments. The meeting is being held Monday so tax bills can go out before the end of August.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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