CANTON – Friday night’s hearing on an application for $500,000 to help pay for sewer and water lines in a new town center turned into one on the Jan. 15 warrant that seeks approval for the project.

More than half of the approximately 25 people attending expressed opposition to developing a new town center. Voters rejected the plan twice last July after voting in 2004 for the site of the new village center off Edmunds Road.

Mistrust of government and concern about low-income people and drugs moving in have been common themes since.

One person said they’re tired of having the issue brought back to them.

The Lazarus Project to relocate the village from the Androscoggin River flood plain began after a December 2003 flood that caused more than $2 million damage to town buildings and some of the approximately 40 residences. Thirty-nine homes were evacuated, and a nursing home, town office, churches and elementary school were made inaccessible.

Since then, the town has received nearly $5 million, mostly from the federal government, to buy those homes, and it has purchased about 30 acres off Edmunds Road for a community center building, about 40 single-family homes, and possibly an apartment building.

Plans call for redeveloping the old town center in multiuse trails, parks, and perhaps a bird sanctuary, public garden and farmers market, according to project coordinator Diane Ray.

Ray fielded questions Friday night, including whether she stood to profit from some of the water and sewer utilities planned. She assured that her land was not close enough to benefit.

Donna Hebert asked why a home that had been offered for sale for $89,000 had a $192 offer in the buyout.

Ray said she didn’t think that was correct and she would check on the assessments.

Hebert also said she thought there should be another type of development for the land and that $137,000 was too much for most people to pay for new homes in the village.

Many questioned who would buy the houses.

Sue Gammon said, “Canton is a lovely area. We have recreation with a lake, river and a whole new conservation area. The conservation area will be a big draw for many people.”

She said a Federal Emergency Management Agency representative told her after the flood that he had never seen a town work together so well. “That spirit seems to be gone and we need to look at what’s happened and get back to working together,” she said.

Ray said the Jan. 15 vote will be the final one if voters reject the development because the grant agencies and the developer will move on to other projects.

She explained that the Greater Brunswick Housing Corp. has pulled together 89 percent of all costs for The Lazarus Project, including home buyer sales.

She said one of the articles is to accept a grant not to exceed $355,000 for the Rural Utilities Service to construct and equip water line extension to the new village. The Canton Water District lost customers because of the flood buyout program, and it is important to replace those customers to keep costs down for current customers, she said.

If the vote is no Jan. 15, the town will own about 30 acres of cleared land and would most likely proceed to sell it, as necessary, Ray said. If partial grant money has been spent it will need to be determined if any of that money needs to be repaid.


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