City favors taking land

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AUBURN – A deal to take the last part of Christian Hill for the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport will wait one more week, councilors agreed Monday.

The City Council will schedule a special meeting to condemn the 8.34 acres south of the airport. They passed the condemnation on first reading by a 6-0 vote Monday but stopped short of skipping a second reading.

“I’m pretty sure we can go ahead and vote tonight, but we want to make sure and do everything right,” Mayor Normand Guay said. “We don’t want any questions.”

Now councilors are scheduled to take the land and then give it to the airport. If they approve, the airport will pay owner Neil Crossley $180,000 for the land.

The land includes part of Christian Hill, an outcropping that juts about 30 feet into the southern approach of the airport. That needs to come down to meet Federal Aviation Administration standards, Airport Manager John McGonagill said. The airport plans to begin selling gravel off the top of the hill to reduce its height.

The land is on the southwest corner of a 42-acre lot between Hotel and Foster road. David Lourie, attorney for Crossley, said last month he’s prepared to challenge the airport.

With Councilor Bethel Shields absent from Monday’s meeting, councilors voted unanimously in support of the condemnation. Councilor Kelly Matzen then moved to waive a second reading and finish the condemnation Monday. Councilors voted 4-2, with Councilors Bob Mennealy and Belinda Gerry voting against waiving the hearing.

That sent councilors and city staff to the City Charter to determine if a four-vote majority was sufficient to pass the condemnation Monday.

Guay said the charter was unclear. Instead of making a decision that could be challenged in court, they agreed to wait until next Monday.

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