BNAS land for police station could cost Brunswick $20K-$40K an acre

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BRUNSWICK — Some of the mysteries surrounding buying property from the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority were cleared up on Tuesday when the group’s executive director visited the police station subcommittee.

Subcommittee members had been surprised and disappointed to learn in early February that the town would have to buy land for a new police station from MRRA. Many members thought they could acquire the land for free.

But Steve Levesque, the authority’s executive, explained that “MRRA has to pay for that property, it doesn’t just come free.”

Because the Navy is still assessing the property, Levesque said he is not sure how much it would cost MRRA to buy the land. He said MRRA is able to negotiate prices with the Navy, and that he expects to acquire the property at less than market value.

Chairwoman Joanne King asked Levesque how much it would cost the town to purchase property along Bath Road. He replied that he couldn’t give an exact estimate, but suspected the price would range from $20,000 to $40,000 per acre. 

Levesque said some of those costs could be offset if the town were willing to build an entrance to the police station that MRRA could later expand into an official entrance to Brunswick Landing. But Councilor John Perreault expressed concern that building such an entrance could cost far more than the cost of buying the land.

Levesque also addressed questions about whether zoning changes would be required to develop two sites along Bath Road. He said that property across from Merrymeeting Plaza is now zoned for community/mixed use development, which would allow a police station. But the Seabees site, across from Fat Boy drive-in, is zoned for a professional office park, and would have to be rezoned in order to build a police station.

“It doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” he said, but added that if the town tries to rezone the parcel before the Navy officially closes the base in May, the entire Environmental Impact Statement process would have to be reopened. Once MRRA has the land, it would be easier to change the zoning.

“I would advise if we’re going to do something, we wait about six months,” Levesque said.

But he admitted that the Navy’s deadlines for property transfers can change, and are easily delayed. He noted the one-year delay in the completion of the EIS as an example. He said MRRA is hoping to acquire the majority of the non-public conveyance property this summer.

“If there’s an environmental issue on a particular parcel, then that could delay a particular transfer,” Levesque said. Assuming everything is clean, he said, MRRA could be in a position to sell land to the town by September.

After Levesque concluded, committee members discussed their reactions to the new information.

Perreault said he was “encouraged by the cost, because I thought it would be more expensive than that.”

“The only thing I find troubling is the time line,” said Bernie Breitbart, “that does not seem to be at all in our control.”

Towards the end of the meeting, Town Manager Gary Brown said he had received several new suggestions for possible police station sites, and wanted to know if the committee wanted to entertain those possibilities.

One is along Mill Street between Swett and Cumberland Streets, another is the Brooks Feed & Farm property on Union Street, and a third is the Cooper Building on Columbus Drive. Brown said the Police Department considered all three sites at the beginning of the site selection process and was not interested in any of them. He also said that neither the Cooper Building nor Brooks Feed & Farm are for sale.

Many committee members said they did not want to consider any new sites, especially ones that are not for sale.

“I feel a certain sense of urgency towards getting this finished,” Ed Knox said.

The committee voted, and decided not to consider any additional properties.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net

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