The fate of the Wilson Pond forested lot will be in the hands of the voters at the polls Tuesday.

The 118 acres on House Road, which has 1,000 feet of shoreline on Wilson Pond, was officially acquired by the town in 2016 when its owners failed to pay property tax.

If voters authorize the Select Board to place a conservation easement on the land, it would be designated for public use for low-impact outdoor recreation, like hiking or hunting.

The lot could be sold directly to a conservation buyer, guaranteeing permanent protection. Or the town could retain the property as a town forest, sharing management decisions with a land trust.

Town Manager Aaron Chrostowsky said there would be operating expenses, but that would minimally impact the current tax rate. Owned by the town, he said, the land would not provide property tax revenue, but Wayne could benefit from timber harvest.

“Some people are against keeping the land,” Chrostowsky said, “because the town took the land from a land owner, so there is this moral question out there (if it’s right to keep the land).”

If voters deny the conservation easement, the town will have to determine another use for the property — like selling.

According to a report written by the Open Space Committee, which was formed after the town acquired the property, the town could earn an estimated $275,000 if it sells it, receiving an annual tax revenue of about $4,675.

Without a conservation easement, however, the property could be developed.

The property is adjacent to two other, privately-owned parcels of land, and the large acreage creates a wildlife corridor. It’s not known the destiny of the two other properties, said Chrostowsky. He said at least one property had been on the market with talks of development.

“Wilson Pond Lot is one of 13 remaining parcels over 100 acres in Wayne,” according to the Wayne Conservation Commission in its report of the economic and conservation value of the lot.

A conservation easement, said Chrostowsky, would impact the grandchildren of the town’s grandchildren. He said residents need to look forward 100 years to decide if it’s a wise decision to keep the land.

“Development is increasing, and land becomes more and more valuable as open spaces dwindle,” Chrostowsky said. “If (the town) wanted to purchase that land 100 years from now, it would cost a lot more.”

The decision to place a conservation easement on the lot will be determined by secret ballot. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Ladd Recreation Center at 26 Gott Road.

Also at the polls, voters will also choose town representatives. Carol Ladd and Stephanie Haines are vying for one five-year term on the Budget Committee; unopposed in their bids for office, Trent Emery is seeking re-election to a three-year term on the Select Board and Theresa Kerchner is seeking a three-year term on the Local School Committee.

The remainder of the warrant will be voted on during Town Meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Ladd Recreation Center.

The 2019-2020 spending plan is projected at $1,207,561, a $23,803 increase — or 2.01% — from current approved spending plan of $1,183,758.

“This is a no-frills budget,” said Chrostowsky.

A bulk of the spending increase is to pay debts. This year the town will spend $271,268 on five bonds, with bond for work on Old Winthrop Road will be retired after the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

Spending also includes more funding for the Aging at Home program, which coordinates volunteer help for the elderly. Volunteers provide assistance with transportation, chores, cooking and other help, so elderly residents can age in their homes and not in a nursing home.

Previously funded by a grant, the town will fully fund the program at a cost of $3,840.

Revenues are expected to be $495,797, a decrease of $27,968 — or 5.34% — from the currently fiscal year’s budgeted revenues of $523,765.

Part of the reason for that is that no revenues will be coming from the undesignated fund, which had been used in the past to minimize the tax impact.

“The town is concerned of welfare of residents,” said Chrostowsky, “and we’ve been deferring large capital projects like (building) a town office and road work in order to respect the residents on their taxes.”

The current tax rate for Wayne is $17.05 per $1,000 of assessed property. On a home assessed at $100,000, annual property taxes would be $1,705 before any exemptions.

The new tax rate could not be finalized because the Regional School Unit 38 budget is also going before voters Tuesday, but Chrostowsky said he expects it to increase by about 6%.

Residents will also be asked if the town can spend a $100,000 Community Development Block Grant for economic development, funding for which Chrostowsky said the town has already been approved.

The grant funds would be split evenly between Cobbie’s Corner Store and the Wayne General Store, both located on Route 133.

Cobbie’s would use the money for facade improvements, including new siding and doors. It would also install a ramp to improve accessibility. The general store would use its funds to upgrade its restroom to be Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, and it would purchase a new walk-in cooler and ovens.

“There is concern about the liability the town has if the money is misspent, that the town would be on the hook to repay that,” said Chrostowsky, explaining that because the improvements will be physical, therefore visible. “These business met the threshold for the state, so there is no chance of them defaulting on the grant.”

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