Developer tweaks plan for Yarmouth's former train depot

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council in a Nov. 1 workshop received updated plans to reduce proposed parking at the historic Grand Trunk Railroad Depot on Main Street. 

Councilors also decided to vote at their next meeting on whether to establish a no-parking zone along northbound Route 1 outside Casco Bay Ford.

The Planning Board has approved a proposal for Freeport resident Ford Reiche to purchase the 1906 former train station from the Village Improvement Society and lease the space to Gorham Savings Bank. Because the plans were only approved at the concept review level, however, the next step is site plan review.

According to town documents, concern expressed by councilors and members of the public prompted Reiche to tweak his landscaping and parking plan.

Councilors are now expected to vote Nov. 15 on a resolution “endorsing and encouraging” the project, which will also authorize Reiche to begin the site review process.

On Nov. 1, Reich, landscape architect Sarah Witte, and Gorham Savings Bank President Stephen DeCastro presented plans for the train depot proposal.

Town Manager Nat Tupper said “there is a desire” to make Village Green Park, from which the former train depot is accessed, “nicer than it currently is,” improve underground utilities, and allow an expansion of parking in the area behind the park.

“All of those pieces are before the Planning Board, but the Planning Board cannot review and act on a site plan application formally without some indication from the Town Council that you are at least authorizing that application,” he said. 

The Canadian National Railway owned the train station for more than 60 years, until the railroad stopped running trains to Yarmouth and proposed tearing it down. To save the building from being demolished, VIS bought the building for $500 in 1968.

In 1979, the train depot was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

For more than 40 years, the society leased the space to Village Florist & Co., which did not renew its lease last year.

The Yarmouth venture is not the first time Reiche and Gorham Savings Bank have worked together. The bank purchased and restored the Grand Trunk Railway Co. building at the corner of India and Commercial streets in Portland in 2016.

Reiche said as it stands now, the local building is not accessible by Main Street. The plans call for nine parking spaces – five diagonal spaces available to the public, three spaces near the bank for bank employees, and one handicapped accessible space.

The original plan presented to the Planning Board Sept. 26 proposed 12 parking spaces.

Witte said those involved in the project want the Village Green “always to be an important open space,” even though “it’s fallen on a bit of hard times.”

She added the project will not entail “cutting down all the trees.” Specifically, large trees on the property line will be maintained.

She also said the floor plan from the original building is not changing, but a back room that is currently blocked off will get a new access door to become a space for employees.

The plans also call for a drive-up interactive teller machine where customers can speak with bank employees and conduct automatic transactions.

Witte said the plan is to return to the Planning Board with a “90 percent” complete site plan on Nov. 28, and a complete plan in December or January.

Much of the discussion from councilors regarded the proposed parking.

Councilor Timothy Shannon said there is “tons” about the project that he likes, but said he thinks Main Street is already “overly car-centric” so he is interested in having as little parking in the area as possible.

“I just don’t like parking in that space,” he said.

In response to a question from Councilor April Humphrey, Witte said the intent of the six public parking spaces “is to provide a friendly, definitely public-oriented space.”

Witte also said the employee spots are situated closer to the bank than the public spaces, in part, for security reasons.

Councilors also floated the idea of moving some of the public parking spaces to where the employee spaces are proposed to be, closer to the bank.

Chair Robert Waeldner said he could go “either way” on how the parking is divided.

“I ask the bank and the developer really to take a reasonable look at this,” he said. “What you can do and what’s good for your business, what’s good for the town, and come back to us.”

During the meeting Police Chief Mike Morrill addressed the council as well, and recommended the no parking zone on Route 1 be put in place and stretch to Day’s Crabmeat and Lobster Company.

“I believe it’s safe from that point forward for vehicles to come and go in that general area,” Morrill said.

He said he has heard several complaints from employees of Casco Bay about parking in the area.

Morrill submitted a recommendation to the Planning Board regarding the parking zone in July, when the board was reviewing a site plan for an addition and renovation of the car dealership.

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 780-9123 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

Ford Reiche updates the Yarmouth Town Council on his plan to convert the Grand Trunk Railroad Depot into a Gorham Savings Bank. Councilors will vote Nov. 15 on whether to allow him to begin the site review process.

The former Grand Trunk Railroad Depot in Yarmouth.

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