Residents of this tiny seaside community, who have been fighting for years to save the area's only mountain and wilderness area from land developers, have settled the matter once and for all -- they bought it.
For a "bargain" price of $200,000 the town's voters agreed at their recent annual town meeting to buy Mt. Agamenticus, a 691-foot mountain that once boasted southern Maine's only ski area.
For local officials and residents, the decision to buy "Mt. Aggie," as it is affectionately called, puts to rest fears they've had since 1975, when an Oklahoma businessman proposed to build a 3,500-unit housing and recreational development on the side of the mountain.
"Now we can preseved it for our children, and our children's children," observed one local resident after the annual town meting.
Although the developers' plans for the mountain were overwhelmingly rejected by voters from this town and neighboringSouth Berwick, the concern about similar proposals still lingered.
Last year, when it became apparent that the principal owner of the land -- the York Corner Holding Co. -- might consider selling much of the mountain property to a development company, local officials arranged to start negotiations.
And after a special town meeting in December, when voters agreed to allow town officials to abate the 1978 and 1979 taxes on the land, the holding company offered to sell the mountain to the town for $200,000 -- an offer the local residents apparently couldn't refuse.
Voters last week overwhelmingly agreed to borrow the money and pay it back over five years. Town officials plan to preserve the land, either as wilderness area or as a recreational area.
The Mt. Agamenticus wilderness areahas been the subject of at least one massive environmental study, which suggested that much of the land in the area is unsuitable for residential development.