Bear-way leads to town dump

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BETHEL – Black bear decadence at Bethel’s publicly funded bear diner – the town dump – may soon gain an unexpected benefit.

Developers behind the Olde Mt. Will Farm Estates, a proposed 12-lot subdivision on 41 acres just south of the transfer station and between Route 2 and the Androscoggin River, are poised to give bears unfettered access to the adjacent dump.

That unusual move by applicants Edmund and Paula Turgeon and Ronald Gonthier stems from a Maine Department of Environmental Protection requirement involving wetland impact mitigation.

According to Christine Woodruff, project manager for DEP’s Division of Land Resource Regulation in Portland, the Turgeons and Gonthier want to fill about 25,000 square feet of wetlands protected by Maine’s Natural Resource Protection Act.

To do that under a Tier II NRPA permit, an applicant must provide at least eight times as much preservation as impact, Woodruff said by phone on Wednesday afternoon.

According to the Bethel Planning Board minutes of June 27, the Turgeons and Gonthier through agent Bob Berry of Main-Land Development Consultants Inc. of Livermore, have proposed to preserve a bear corridor to Bethel’s transfer station.

“It’s one way to set aside land that will never be developed again,” Berry said by phone from Livermore on Wednesday afternoon.

Although Berry said the corridor could also be used by large mammals like deer and moose to get to and from the river.

But Woodruff was concerned more about bears, and moving people into their proximity.

“If bears are at the dump and you put a house there, suddenly, that’s a nuisance bear,” she said. “The whole concept is to provide for a loss of habitat from the impacted wetlands, but, in this case, that habitat happens to be the town dump.”

According to Bethel Town Manager Scott Cole, bears currently are a big problem at the dump.

“It’s been ravaged by the bears. The town dump creates an attractive nuisance from overfilled Dumpsters,” he said by phone Wednesday afternoon. “The bear facts, are, that the town crew and transfer station staff have been cleaning up after the bears.”

The problem, he added, gets exacerbated on weekends when most people tend to get rid of their waste and the town-hired trash collector doesn’t pick up the garbage in timely fashion.

But, whether it’s still a problem in the future when houses start going up on the proposed lots, should it gain approval, depends on Bethel voters.

“Our long-term plan is to put in sealed containers and a compactor. That’s conceivable to occur within the next 12 months,” Cole said.

But, so far, a majority of Bethel voters have repeatedly rejected that idea.

At Wednesday night’s Bethel Planning Board meeting, planners tabled action on the estates project, which gets scrutinized by Woodruff and her supervisor this morning in Portland.

The applicants have applied to DEP for a stormwater permit by rule and an NRPA permit.

“We want to see if their proposed compensation area meets with our requirements,” Woodruff added.

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