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Brunswick board puts brakes on plan for new police station

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Brunswick board puts brakes on plan for new police station

BRUNSWICK — Four dilapidated, vacant buildings at the corner of Pleasant and Stanwood streets will not be torn down any time soon.

On Tuesday, the Village Review Board denied the Brunswick Development Corp.'s request to demolish the properties.

The BDC, a quasi-municipal agency – whose board includes two town councilors, the town manager and finance director, and three public directors with experience in business – bought the properties for nearly $1 million with the intention of transfering them to the town for the construction of a police station.

But because the Town Council has not approved construction of a police station on the property, the BDC could offer the board no concrete plans about how the land would be used after the buildings are demolished.

The uncertainty left review board members unwilling to approve the action.

"Until we know what will be replacing (the buildings), it's hard to say take them down now," said Chairwoman Emily Swan.

Swan said she is concerned that plans to construct a police station could be abandoned, and the buildings, which she does not believe are all beyond the point of repair, would have been unnecessarily demolished.

Pat Scully, Brunswick's attorney, argued that the board does not have to consider what comes after the demolition.

"You have to limit yourself to, can the demolition go forward with the understanding that there would be some future economic development?," he said.

But board members, especially Swan, kept returning to the uncertainty about the future use of the property, even after Larissa Darcy, president of the BDC, argued that regardless of what replaces them, just tearing down the buildings would improve the neighborhood.

"It would be a disservice to leave them there, vacant, indefinitely, until something is proposed," Darcy said.

Anna Breinich, the town's planning and development director, said the buildings have lost value over time. She added that the Maine Historic Preservation Commission has said the buildings are not eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

But that didn't matter to board member Janet Roberts, who argued that being listed on the national register had nothing to do with whether the building contributes to the character of the Village Review Zone – a standard the board considers when voting to allow demolition.

Swan said she didn't care about 81 Pleasant St., which has been condemned, and 1 Stanwood Street, on the corner. But she said 3 Stanwood St. and 85 Pleasant St., which are Greek revivals that have been altered through additions, fit in with the neighborhood.

Claudia Knox, of Cumberland Street, was the only member of the public at the meeting. She encouraged the board to approve the demolition.

"No matter how you slice it, these buildings are not going to stay long term, so why should you delay the inevitable," she said.

But the board unanimously voted to deny the BDC's application, meaning the buildings will remain standing.

Following the meeting, Darcy said she was disappointed, but undeterred. She said the BDC would discuss at its August meeting whether to appeal the decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals, or to return to the Village Review Board with more information.

In the past, the BDC has torn down abandoned structures in the interest of combating neighborhood blight. These included a warehouse at 10 Weymouth St., demolished in September 2009, and multi-unit apartment buildings at 2-4 Swett St. and 51 Mill St., torn down in October and November 2002, respectively.

None of those properties were in the Village Review Zone.

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