Friday, April 1, 2016

Gray secession committee discusses pros and cons of annexation to Raymond - By Walter Lunt

The Gray Secession Committee kicked off their petition drive this week at an informational meeting held at the Raymond Fire Barn, an early step in an estimated 2-year process aimed at several neighborhoods seceding from the Town of Gray and joining Raymond. The area includes the west shore of Little Sebago Lake and Little Sebago Lodges on the north to Northern Oaks on the southern boundary. Some residents refer satirically to the area as “Graymond.” A map showing the proposed new boundaries was presented at the meeting and is available on the committee’s Facebook page.
The topics were many and varied: Redrawing boundaries, town services, private roads and sense of place, were all discussed at an informational meeting sponsored by a group of Gray residents calling for what committee member described as a “divorce.”

The 5-member group cites geography as the main reason for a separation. Committee president Jennifer White says residents living in the secession area have to travel through Raymond to access Gray town services, such as the town hall, transfer station and schools, which for most is a 20 to 25 minute drive.
“We have an identity crisis,” according to White. She said residents from those neighborhoods access commercial services in Raymond and Windham, and “we’re in an area where Gray doesn’t have a great deal to do with us. I feel we’re a cash cow for the Town of Gray.”

Committee vice-president David Getchell said talk of secession has been raised several times over the years, but the last round in disagreement with the town over a section of Gore Road in Gray became the impetus for the current action. The town, he said, has long been reluctant to maintain a short stretch of Gore Road due to uncertainty over public easement and ownership issues. Frustration has mounted because the two sides have failed to reach any kind of agreement. Gray town officials say they are confident a settlement can be reached, but according to White, funds for the work are not included in the current budget.

Many who attended the meeting signed the petition to initiate the process of separation. Others who spoke disagreed with the effort, saying the committee lacks specific information on the on the advantages of joining Raymond. According to White and Getchell there is a probability of lower property taxes and a certainty that town and school services would be closer and more convenient. They said Raymond offers curb-side trach pick-up and recycling, although some private roads have pick-up at a centralized point. Gray residents take their trash to the town’s transfer station which also accepts large items, such as appliances for a fee. 

http://www.lisafriedlander.comA possible disadvantage to switching towns would involve snow plowing. Raymond plows only public roads. The large number of private road neighborhoods in the proposed secession territory now serviced by the Town of Gray, would have to form associations, charge dues and hire private contractors, a move that would reduce the lower property tax advantage.

Gray town officials have indicated they hope to reach an agreement with the secession committee. White said the committee has conducted talks with Raymond officials who say they can make no guarantees, but that some issues would be on the table for discussion.

At stake for both communities according to research by the secession committee, is some $77 million in property valuations including 171 year-round residential properties, much of it shorefront.

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The secession process will be a long one, reported White and Getchell, taking a minimum of two years. If the group garners enough petition signatures (51 percent of the approximately 315 registered voters in the secession area) that are validated by the town, a public hearing will be held that would require the committee to submit detailed reports on the impact to both towns in the event of a switch. Also at the hearing, all residents of Gray would have the opportunity to weigh in on the plan. Following that, a bill would be drafted in the Maine Legislature that, if passed, would allow the secessionist movement to proceed. Meditation and referendum votes in both towns would follow. White said the process could end at any time if the proposal is defeated in the referendum or if the committee reaches an agreement with the Town of Gray.

Additional information on the petition drive and the committee’s efforts are available on the Gray Secession Committee Facebook page.

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