Morse Mountain tax exemption extended

The Phippsburg Board of Selectmen and Bates College announced Monday, April 13, that an agreement was reached to continue the tax exemption of the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area.

Under this agreement, the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area will retain its tax exemption through the 2001-2002 tax year, and Phippsburg will receive increased payments each year in lieu of real and personal property taxes.

In March 1997, the board of selectmen, acting as the board of assessors, revoked the 1978 tax exemption. Even though Bates College had made payment to the town in lieu of real estate taxes each year, the board was concerned about whether the uses of the conservation area in recent years had met the requirements for tax exemption. Bates College, which uses the conservation area for scientific research and scientific studies, responded by demonstrating to the selectmen that the area has been and will continue to be used only for tax-exempt purposes.

The Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area includes more than 500 acres of natural, undeveloped coastal, wetland and salt- marsh lands adjoining Seawall Beach between the Sprague and Morse rivers. The property was donated at various times since 1977 to the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area Corporation by members of the St. John family. Bates College has exclusive use of the property under the terms of a 50-year lease and has made extensive use of the land for environmental, biological and other scientific research.

In the agreement, the college recognizes that the annual payments which it has made every year may have been insufficient to assist the town in the three preceding tax years and has paid an additional sum for each of these years. This year, Phippsburg will receive a payment in lieu of taxes, and next year and every year through 2001-2002 the town will receive an increasing payment. The tax exempt status of the property will continue through 2001- 2002 as long as the property continues to be used for tax-exempt purposes. The Phippsburg Board of Selectmen and Bates College agree to review the agreement prior to January 1, 2002.

Unrelated to the tax exemption matter, Bates and the town also announced that Phippsburg Elementary School and the college will work together to develop selected educational activities for local school children, utilizing the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area.

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