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Building swap between Brunswick, Bowdoin College becomes reality

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Building swap between Brunswick, Bowdoin College becomes reality

BRUNSWICK — After years of speculation and months of negotiation, the town and Bowdoin College will exchange the Longfellow School for the McLellan building.

The swap will give the college extra space adjacent to its campus, and will provide the town with a modern municipal office, council chambers, and records storage all in one place, ending years of housing the three in various buildings around town.

The final details of the trade were nearly identical to those discussed at the July 25 Town Council meeting, when councilors authorized Town Manager Gary Brown to negotiate an agreement with the college.

The closing will take place before January.

Bowdoin will continue to occupy McLellan until May 31, 2014, and will be responsible for utilities, insurance, maintenance of the property and paying the equivalent of property taxes to the town until then. The college will not pay rent to the town and may continue to occupy the third floor of McLellan at no cost for up to 10 years after the town takes possession of the building.

Brunswick will pay for abatement of hazardous material at Longfellow and intersection improvements at both ends of College Street, and install a speed table toward the middle of the street and rebuild the sidewalk.

Thirty-nine of the 88 parking spots behind McLellan will be reserved for the college, and the town will get a 10-year lease on the Longfellow School playground.

The council on Monday also approved another required element of the building swap: the rezoning of the Longfellow School property to College Use 7. The new zone allows for uses like a theater, artist studios and office space, but not a recreational facility or alumni center. It also allows for a maximum density of eight units per acre.

The college hasn't disclosed any specific details about how it will use the school building, or whether it will be demolished. Caty Longley, senior vice president for finance, administration and treasurer, told the Planning Board in a Sept. 8 letter that "the primary use will be an Educational Facility as defined in the Brunswick Zoning Ordinance."

Brown said the town council has a lease from Bowdoin for the existing council chambers at Maine Street Station until September 2014 and will continue to meet there. The town may swap 28 Federal St., the current town offices, for the land at the corner of Pleasant and Stanwood streets owned by the Brunswick Development Corp., which is slated to become a police station.

The council also voted to send rezoning of that lot to the Planning Board. The new zoning would abolish size restrictions on new municipal buildings throughout town. Currently, the TR-1 zoning district, which encompasses the corner of Pleasant and Stanwood streets, only allows buildings up to 7,500 square feet – smaller than the existing 10,000-square-foot police station.

Brown made it clear that the changes would only apply to municipal buildings, and would not pave the way for large commercial development on that site or elsewhere in town.

Moving forward with the initial design of the new police station, the council authorized Brown to hire the Boston-based architecture firm Donham & Sweeney and pay them $75,000. Although the firm isn't local, Brown said they would partner with engineering and consulting firms from Brunswick and the greater Portland area.

In other business, the council set public hearings for Oct. 17 on several items, including ordinance amendments that would allow farm animals in the growth area, two Community Development Block Grants and zoning amendments to the Telecommunications 2 Overlay Zone that would allow an AM radio tower to be built off Old Portland Road.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.