Damariscotta farmland will be preserved

6:19 PM, Jul 5, 2011   |    comments
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DAMARISCOTTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- For the past six years, people in Damariscotta have wondered -- and worried -- about who might buy Jim Phillips' 68 acres of farmland.

The land fronts on busy U.S. Route 1, and was considered a prime site for commercial development. So good, in fact, that Walmart wanted to build a huge store there in 2005.

That proposal led to a major fight in the town, with Phillips caught in the middle. He says he bought the land many years earlier as a good retirement investment, and wanted to sell it. But a majority of residents said no to Walmart, and passed a size cap to block "big box" retail stores from coming into town.

So when Phillips posted a big for sale sign on the land last year, the rumor mill went wild. But those who worried are apparently now satisfied. Phillips has sold the property to the Maine Farmland Trust, and organization that works to preserve and protect farmland, and keep it in use.

That organization is now working with the Damariscotta River Association to raise the rest of the money to pay off the land, and then sell it-at a much lower price-to a farmer who will use it to grow animals or crops.

The groups say they have heard many positive comments about the plan from people in the area. Jim Phillips says he ended up receiving less for his land than he would have gotten from the big box deal, but says he is satisfied. "The land will be kept the way it is," says Phillips, "and everybody should be really happy. And I'm happy, I don't mind seeing it stay the way it is its good land."

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