Drowne Road School back in Cumberland's hands

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously accepted the Drowne Road School from School Administrative District 51, and discussed adding the school to the town’s Village Mixed Use Zone.

The council also approved an amended lease with Bateman Partners, the Portland development company that wants to convert the 17,600-square-foot school to senior housing.

The project would be the last of three phases in the Village Green Revitalization Master Plan, although the first phase is still pending and awaiting a permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The Planning Board will consider major subdivision approval of that phase on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

In that phase, the 40.7-acre Doane property will be developed as a 59-lot residential subdivision with a mix of single-family and duplex homes.

The Public Works and school bus facilities would be moved in the second phase, which will likely come after the first and third phases. Six single-family and 12 duplex homes would be built in their place, along with a nearly 43,000-square-foot mixed-use building that would house 20 residential rental units and 14,300 square feet of office or retail space.

The SAD 51 Board of Directors voted last year to close the Drowne Road School and use it for other purposes, and to move the third grade to the Mabel I. Wilson School. Voters in the Cumberland-North Yarmouth school district supported that decision in June. As a result, the building has gone back to the town.

The Drowne Road School began as a school, then was the Town Hall before reverting again to a school after the current Town Hall was built in the late 1990s. The town borrowed funds to construct the Town Hall and to renovate and expand the Drowne Road School.

While it used the school, SAD 51 made annual payments to the town for the work done on that building; $480,000 is left on the $1.7 million renovation bond.

According to the terms of its 99-year lease, Bateman will pay the $480,000. It will also pay the town $22,500 each year in lieu of taxes, with a negotiated escalation clause to cover annual local tax increases. While the town owns the property it cannot receive taxes from it, which explains the payment in lieu of taxes.

The council also voted Monday to have the Planning Board hold a public hearing and make a recommendation on the addition of the Drowne Road School to the adjacent Village Mixed Use Zone. The addition would allow work on that building to proceed without a contract zone. The school is currently in the Rural Residential 1 Zone.

The Planning Board will hold a hearing Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

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

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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.