The Brunswick Town Council has approved a conservation easement for 22.63 acres of land off Hacker Road.

In return for the easement, a proposed subdivision will be allowed to have smaller lot sizes and a higher density than normally allowed in the zoning district. Brunswick’s zoning ordinance allows developers increase housing density in exchange for granting conservation easements to the town.

Jared Woolston, town planner and interim director, said the town’s conservation commission and planning board recommended approving the easement if the land is open to the public.

Some councilors were wary of approving a conservation easement, for fear the town was ceding too much land to uses that would not generate much tax revenue.

“I have some real concerns about, when we look at all the properties the town owns, and we look at conversations and easements, there are a lot of them all over town,” said Councilor Jane Millet. “These are coming off the tax rolls, and we have people who are very upset as to what the taxes are.”

But Councilor Steve Walker countered that the town has provisions in place that apply any lost property value to the developed parcels in such cases.

“It’s not a net loss by any means in terms of land coming off the tax rolls when the land is subdivided like this,” he said.

Walker did have concerns with the language of the easement. It allows hunting and fishing on the land, but also contains language that would allow the developer – Robert Muller – to prohibit hunting at his discretion.

“There’s nothing in the easement to say what would trigger that approval or deny that request,” he said. “I’d really like to see the language tightened for when the granter can limit those activities.”

Other concerns included whether the public will be able to access the property. Hacker Road, in particular, was cited as a bad place for cars to park, and the roads inside the subdivision will be private.

Muller said the property will not have trails, and the types of uses intended – hunting and fishing – tend to be done by people who are fit enough to walk a quarter mile to access the property. He added that the easement connects with two others that have better access.

He said he plans to allow hunting on the property.

The council approved the easement 6-3, with councilors David Watson, Christopher Watkinson, and Millett voting against.

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