Herschel Sternlieb showed up at Wednesday's meeting of the Brunswick Conservation Commission (BCC) prepared to make a presentation proposing the construction of a public park on Brunswick Naval Air Station (BNAS) land once the base closes. He was second on the commission's agenda.

Little did he know that he would first have to endure more than two hours of haggling between Bowdoin brass and town officials.

"That was quite a jousting match," Sternlieb remarked of the lengthy debate, which focused on the language of a joint agreement between the College and the town regarding their own plans for the BNAS property.

Katy Longley, Bowdoin's treasurer and senior vice president for finance, and Jamie Kilbreth, an attorney for the College, presented a draft of the agreement to the BCC, Town Commons Planning Committee (TCPC) Chair Christopher Livesay, and Rep. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick. The town officials said the draft needed to be reworked before they would be willing to sign on to it.

The draft of the agreement outlines compromises between the two parties regarding parcels of land that both are interested in acquiring once the base is decommissioned in 2011. It stipulates that the College and the town will support each other as each applies for the land through appropriate channels. The two parties will then cooperate with one another regarding its use and development should they acquire the land successfully.

"The College and the Town wish to work together to support each other's public benefit conveyance applications and other efforts to acquire the property...to ensure the long term future of the area along the west side of the base," the document asserts.

Because the College is seeking property that divides the land that the town wants, the draft instructs the College to grant an easement of conserved land that could contain public bike and footpaths connecting the town's parcels.

It was this part of the document that prompted disagreement during Wednesday's meeting. Livesay indicated that the draft did not address the town's concerns comprehensively enough.

"I don't think issues such as width of these easements has been addressed; I don't there is any detailed description of how the College and the town would be managing conservation areas," he said, "and that's the kind of stuff that shouldn't be left to the last minute."

Livesay said that some members of the TCPC think the town should be looking to acquire the 493-acre swath of land that the College is seeking along the western side of the base.

"Frankly, if you can't reach an agreement that satisfies the town on that intervening land, maybe that's something that ought to happen," he said.

The BCC's main concerns lay with a 152-acre parcel at the top of this "intervening land." According to the draft, the College wants to develop approximately one-third of the parcel. Some members of the commission were concerned about the College's plans to develop that land because of the natural resources there, specifically pitch pine and sandplain grassland.

"I read this language as us taking a 50-acre hit," said BCC member Loraine Kohorn. "I would like to avoid rather than minimize impact on critical natural areas."

While Livesay said that the town and the College should wait until they can evaluate the environmental attributes of the land in question before signing on to a joint agreement, Kilbreth argued that a proper assessment would not be feasible before the April 9 application deadline because of snow cover.

"We don't have five weeks to try to refine this," Kilbreth said. "Until April at the absolute earliest, you can't do any meaningful work out there to identify these resources and figure these things out."

"If you go down that path, you're essentially saying we can't have an agreement," he added.

The college representatives left the meeting agreeing to rework the language of the agreement that concerns the 152-acre parcel in question and the footpaths.

Bowdoin's plan for the development of the BNAS property it is pursuing, which it must submit to the Department of Education by April 9, is not yet complete, according to Longley. Though acquiring the land would triple the size of the campus, Longley said that the College has no plans to grow the student body.

When it comes to the new land, "we're talking about playing fields, we're talking about science classrooms, outdoor classrooms, possible facilities buildings and parking," she said.

The College may also plan to keep its IT servers in the building that currently houses the base's flight simulator.

Longley noted that because of the bureaucracy involved in the application process, it could be up to a year before the College submits a finalized plan for the BNAS land.