WAYNE — Town officials are seeking public feedback on whether a large, town-owned property on Wilson Pond should be preserved, sold, or some combination of the two.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the town plans to hold a public forum at the Ladd Recreation Center about the future of the forested, 118-acre parcel, which is on House Road.

The town came to own the land fully in 2016 after its previous owner failed to pay taxes on it over multiple years. This week’s hearing could influence what happens to the land going forward, said Ford Stevenson, chairman of a special group that was formed after the town acquired the property.

That group, known as the Open Space Committee, has drafted five possible options for the land that will be discussed Tuesday night. Afterward, the committee plans to make a report to the selectmen, who in turn hope to send a proposal to voters in November.

“People who have interests and thoughts from whatever angle should really try to get to this one to voice their thoughts,” Stevenson said, referring to the meeting on Tuesday night.

The selectmen also plan to hold another public forum in the fall, Stevenson added.

The options, which are outlined in documents on the town website, include selling the property to the highest bidder, selling it to a conservation group, managing it as a public forest, and dividing it for a mix of sale and conservation.

“The committee is not trying to persuade people about any one option over the other,” Stevenson said. “We’re just presenting options that have been fleshed out. There’s a wide range of opinions on what can and should happen to this property. That’s what’s reflected in the wide range of options.”

The town first took ownership of the land in 2013 after its previous owner didn’t pay taxes on it for five years. At Town Meeting in 2015, residents voted 178-110 to cement the town’s ownership of the land through a process known as “quieting the deed.” That process was finalized in 2016, the same year that the Open Space Committee was formed.

The property’s future has become a polarizing matter, Stevenson said, with residents divided over whether to sell or conserve it. The Open Space Committee’s report includes options for both groups, as well as some that try to find middle ground.

The committee also has tried to calculate what revenue each option would bring to the town, to make up for more than $70,000 in unpaid taxes, legal fees, and interest it has lost on the Wilson Pond property.

Selling the property to the highest bidder could bring the greatest cash return, in the form of a one-time payment of about $275,000 and annual tax revenue of $4,675, according the committee’s report. But the committee warned that it’s hard to project the actual income from those sales. It also noted that option could close the land to public use.

The property has an abundance of wildlife and natural scenery, which is why another town group, the Conservation Commission, has endorsed preserving it. The lot includes mixed forests, multiple habitats, about 1,000 feet of shoreline on Wilson Pond and a topography that slopes up toward a ridge, allowing open views to the east and west, according to a report by the Conservation Commission.

The town’s comprehensive plan has a goal of placing 15 percent of undeveloped land into conservation. To that end, the Open Space Committee has incorporated some form of conservation into the four other options in its report.

Under one of those options, the town would sell the land to the Kennebec Land Trust, a regional group that manages conservation areas and keeps them open to the public. That sale would net the town $70,000 — recouping most of the losses from the Wilson Pond property — as well as about $700 in annual payments in lieu of taxes, according to the report.

Because the committee has been working with the Kennebec Land Trust, those projections are more likely to come to fruition, the report states.

The committee also included an option in which the town would keep the land and sell a conservation easement to the Kennebec Land Trust for a projected $70,000, according to the report. While that option would not bring any tax revenue, the town would be able to sell harvested timber for a projected income of $20,000 over 20 years.

Under a fourth option, the town would keep the land as a permanent, publicly accessible forest, forgoing revenue from the sale and taxes, but earning the same amount from the timber sales.

Finally, the Open Space Committee also drafted an option in which the town would sell some of the land — bringing a one-time income of about $110,000 and annual tax revenue of $3,740 — while keeping the rest for the town or Kennebec Land Trust.

“I think we have a good, wide range of options,” Stevenson said. “All have some legitimacy. None of them are horrible. All have different people who support them.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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