Agreement forces North Yarmouth to rethink plans for Wescustogo property

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NORTH YARMOUTH — A public hearing and special Town Meeting on future use of the former Wescustogo Hall property have been canceled because of legal complications.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Steve Palmer announced the cancellation in a Jan. 30 email.

A public hearing had been scheduled for Thursday, followed by a special Town Meeting Feb. 25, when residents would have decided whether to remove a 1997 directive governing the property.

Town Meeting voted in 1997 to accept the Grange building for community use, to maintain an open space within the building, and to rebuild the structure in the event of its destruction, interim Town Manager Marnie Diffin said.

According to North Yarmouth’s legal counsel, Palmer said, “the town entered into a contractual agreement which, upon review, cannot be reversed.”

What can now be done on the Walnut Hill Road property – where fire destroyed the approximately 60-year-old building last August – will be determined by an interpretation of the stipulations in the 1997 agreement, Palmer said, noting that the town will have to make sure it is working within that interpretation in the future.

“I think we’ll be able to work it out, so that everyone is happy, so that the community can move forward, and that we have vestiges of the old Grange and Wescustogo into the future,” he said in a telephone interview.

North Yarmouth’s Economic Development and Sustainability Committee has called for the Wescustogo Hall lot to be offered to the North Yarmouth Historical Society, allowing the group to either move the Old Town House there from Route 9 and use it for storage and meetings, or to raise funds to construct a new building on the site.

Insurance proceeds from Wescustogo Hall should be used to build a new structure, either attached to or near Town Hall, the committee has proposed. It would function in the same way as Wescustogo Hall, where events like elections, meetings and weddings were held.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.