2016-01-01 / Community

Dow’s Woods approved

After nearly a year of wrangling, South Portland has achieved a “dream come true” in an agreement to permanently preserve a 9.2-acre parcel known as Dow’s Woods.

The city council voted unanimously at its Dec. 21 meeting to spend $140,000 in the city’s “land bank” to buy third party enforcement rights to a conservation easement on the property.

In January, developer Dan White of H.W. Land Co. asked the city council to rezone three lots totaling 11.75 acres at 590 Highland Ave., located behind a row of houses across from South Portland High School, allowing him to build 32 residential units. The council rejected that idea, despite the offer of an easement on the Dow’s Woods portion of the property, saying it was simply too many houses for the area.

In September, White returned with a reduced development plan of 15 condominium units, asking in return that the city pay to obtain the conservation easement. Although Dow’s Woods is listed on South Portland’s 2001 Open Space Plan as the sixth “most valuable” parcel to preserve in the city, councilors deadlocked on the proposal, with some saying the city should own the property outright.

That impasse was overcome at a November workshop – although no significant changes were made to the proposal – clearing the way for the purchase.

South Portland’s land bank, a fund created from the sale of city property and dedicated to the preservation of open space, currently holds nearly $650,000.

“This is kind of a dream come true. It’s really why the land bank exists,” Councilor Patti Smith said.

The property, to be known as the Dow’s Woods Nature Preserve, will be open to public use for low impact, non-motorized use. Dogs and bicycles also will be banned form the trail system. H.W. Land Co. has committed to building parking spaces to accommodate trail access.

– Compiled by Wm. Duke Harrington, staff writer

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