York Planning Board members Pete Smith and Kathleen Kluger consult with engineer Thomas Greer during a Planning Board site walk of the Davis property in November 2017. While the Planning Board has granted final approval for a 115-unit residential development on the property, York voters will have the opportunity to purchase the land in November. Credit: Ralph Morang | The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — Mal Davis of the Mary McIntire Davis Trust said he wants residents to know his perspective about the time leading up to the release of a town appraisal of his family’s York Street property earlier this month — an appraisal he said is not only unfair but lacks credibility.

Selectmen two weeks ago released a $5.29 million appraisal of the 106-acre property owned by the trust, which has final Planning Board approval for a 115-unit residential development. York voters by a 3-1 margin last May asked the town to negotiate a sale price of between $7 million and $8 million so the town could have the opportunity to purchase it.

At their Aug. 13 meeting, several selectmen said they took umbrage at what they felt was Davis’ unwillingness to negotiate, with Robert Palmer saying the Davis family “didn’t seem to want to meet with us.” Selectmen also said they had expected an appraisal from the trust that was not forthcoming.

Several selectmen intimated while they agreed to put the sale of the property on the ballot for $7.5 million, they would not be supporting it through their preference vote — scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at the library.

Davis said following the May vote, he expected to hear from the town to set up a date for negotiations, waiting through June and July. He said Town Manager Steve Burns called him Aug. 2, and said, “We have to hurry, hurry, hurry” the talks.

He said he didn’t know the town had conducted an appraisal of the property, and although it was completed at the end of June, he did not receive a copy until July 31 or Aug. 1. He said when Burns called him Aug. 2, he learned he was expected to have done his own appraisal.

“I didn’t know I was supposed to get one,” Davis said. “Steve Burns said, ‘Can you get one?’ And I said, ‘Not in the time frame you have.’” He said when the trust paid for an appraisal in 2014, it took 12 weeks to receive the final product. “Then suddenly this $5.29 million hits the streets. And it’s taken over.”

He said it’s unfair for selectmen to say he did not want to negotiate. He didn’t hear from the town until Aug. 2 and was unavailable the first two weeks of August for a long-planned family vacation, of which he said town officials were aware.

Burns said he asked Davis for that 2014 appraisal, done the last time the town considered buying the property, “but his point was well taken that the old appraisal wouldn’t do any good” five years later.

Davis said the town’s appraisal is fatally flawed because it does not compare the trust property to an 85-acre parcel purchased by the town of Kennebunkport last fall for $10 million. “He had an absolutely perfect comparable and he chose to ignore it,” Davis said of appraiser Peter Stanhope of the Stanhope Group.

The Kennebunkport property had been approved in 2006 for a phased 80-unit subdivision, but the owners hit financial snags. The land is close to the town center. In 2017, a foreclosure auction was avoided when a developer expressed interest in following through with permitting and site work. At the time, then-Town Manager Laurie Smith said the town began negotiations with the owners, knowing other developers could be interested in making the same move.

In his appraisal of the Davis property, Stanhope indicated he contacted planning departments in Eliot, Kittery, Berwick, Scarborough, Wells, Kennebunk, Biddeford, Arundel, Cape Elizabeth and Saco to ascertain if they had similar developments to the Davis property.

“He didn’t even contact Kennebunkport,” Davis said. “This appraisal has no credibility with me, my family or my engineer. No credibility. What I would like is a redo and add Kennebunkport in there.”

Burns said “we asked immediately why Kennbunkport wasn’t there.” Stanhope, he said, based his appraisal of the York property on its “highest and best use” as a developed piece of land. In Kennebunkport, he said, the town was “overpaying to get the land off the market so it wouldn’t be developed.” There’s a difference, he said.

“I think they’re both right,” Burns said of Stanhope and Davis. “I think they both have a legitimate view of this. But the appraiser can’t take into account what the town would overpay.”

But the town would not be overpaying, Davis said. He said if you apply the cost per acre of the Kennebunkport property to the cost per acre of the Davis property, it comes out to $12.6 million. “We’re giving the town a 40 percent discount coming in the front door. I want to get that message out to voters between now and November.”

Davis said the town would be purchasing a fully permitted piece of property and “could do whatever they want to do with it. It’s approved and ready to go. We don’t want to develop it. We want the town to have it.”