CANTON – Selectmen voted Monday night to hold three public hearings next month on the stalled village relocation effort, after being presented a petition signed by 121 residents.

Selectman Lisa Cummings moved to recognize the document, which also requests a special town meeting to reconsider funding for the project.

The hearings will be on successive Tuesdays, Sept. 9, 16 and 23.

The petition asks the town to:

• cease all efforts to sell the Village Ridge property on Edmunds Road;

• hold at least three public hearings on new information on the project; and

• hold a special town meeting to accept a $336,000 sewer grant, a $448,000 sewer loan, a $355,000 water grant and a $434,000 water loan, all from USDA Rural Development.

Last month, the board voted 3-2 not to hold any more hearings on the effort to create a new town center outside the Androscoggin River flood plain. The project was started after a major flood in 2003 caused about $2 million damage to 40 homes, businesses and town buildings in the village. The town fire station was moved to Route 108, and the town office to Staples Hill Road.

The old village was going to be redeveloped for recreation.

The town received nearly $5 million from state and federal government to buy about 65 properties in the flood plain along routes 140 and 108. It also paid for buying and developing 30 acres on Edmunds Road for building new homes to be sold. The relocation effort was called The Lazarus Project, and the housing site was called Village Ridge.

Project coordinator Diane Ray said last year that moving the village was expected to cost between $6 million and $7 million. Financing for it was approved in 2004, but was later rescinded in three special town meetings.

The work that was done at Village Ridge was dependent on getting the funding, and since voters rejected funding, the town is liable for the debts already incurred. Ray presented payments totaling $177,535 to the board last month.

Selectman Donna Hebert said she understood that if the project was rejected, the town would owe nothing.

The board was in a quandary as to what authority it had to pay the bills and decided to consult with the town attorney.


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