Brunswick Council approved a conservation easement for 22.63 acres of land off of Hacker Road at its regular meeting Monday.

The easement is coupled with allowing a future subdivision to have smaller lot sizes and a higher density than is allowed in the zoning district. Brunswick’s zoning ordinance allows developers to have bonus density in exchange for granting conservation easements for the town.

Jared Woolston, town planner and interim director, said the town’s conservation commission and planning board recommended the easement’s approval on the condition that the land be open to public access.

Some councilors were wary of approving a conservation easement, for fear the town was ceding too much land to uses that won’t allow for an expanding tax base.

“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.”

Councilor Steve Walker countered Millet’s argument, saying the town has provisions in place that take any lost value of that land and applies it towards the lots, and that conservation land tends to break even financially.

“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. The proposal allows for hunting and fishing on the land, but also contains caveats that 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 would be able to access the property. Hacker Road, in particular, was cited as a bad place for cars to be parked, and the roads inside the subdivision would 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 with a high enough level of physical fitness that a quarter-mile walk is feasible. He added that the conservation easement connects with two others, both of which have better access. Nearby Two Echoes, he said, allows access.

As for whether hunting would be allowed, he said he doesn’t plan to disallow it.

“The easement itself was the same easement Two Echoes used, we took that and made some minor modifications,” said Muller. “Even Two Echoes’ easement doesn’t outright deny hunting, they have a right to allow it. Although I don’t think they’ve ever allowed it.”

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

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