Masonic lodge may become Yarmouth community center

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council will consider a proposal for a community center at the Casco Masonic Lodge at 20 Mill St.

The Masons, 317 Main Community Music Center, and the Yarmouth Community Center Steering Committee have jointly developed a proposal to “serve all three organizations’ needs for the future,” according to the draft.

Economic Development Director Scott LaFlamme called the collaboration a “win-win” for all those involved.

The proposal comes as the community center steering committee has been searching for a space that could include a senior center, food pantry and social services center.

Under this proposal, the Masons would offer the town a 99-year lease of the lodge for $1.

The Masons would retain use of the upstairs for meetings and events such as bean suppers, but the town would be responsible for maintenance of the building.

As long as the Masons always have adequate space to meet, the town would be free to sublet, modify or rebuild the lodge, according to Town Manager Nat Tupper.

The rest of the building would be shared, likely between the town, 317 Main and the YCC Steering Committee. The town would sublease a portion of the property to 317 Main, including use of the lodge’s parking area as it exists or if it’s redeveloped or reconfigured.

According to a draft agreement, a sublease may include using a part of the building; using of a portion of the parcel to build an addition to 317 Main’s structure; and/or building an addition to the Masonic Hall or building one or more new free-standing structures on or partially on the Masonic Hall parcel, “all to be determined by mutual agreement of the Town and 317 Main Street, with the advice of the Masons.”

John Williams, 317 Main executive director, said he loves the idea of the “community campus” space and added it would be helpful for the community music center, which is “cramped for space.”

Tupper said YCC has looked at a variety of spaces to meet its needs, but came back to the Masonic Lodge because of the “very generous, community-spirited offer from (the Masons).”

Horace Horton, who co-chairs the YCC Steering Committee with his wife, Barbara, said the Masons are “terrific” for offering the space to the town and, in turn, 317 Main and the YCC.

“This is not intended to be a money-maker,” Tupper said of the proposal, noting the cost of maintaining the building, including utilities and heat, would be shared between all entities involved in the future lease agreement.

Tupper said, eventually, endorsement of the project and guidance on the lease agreement from the council will be sought.

During a July 26 meeting, councilors spoke generally in favor of the proposal. Councilor Meghan Casey called it a “generous offer,” one she hopes the council doesn’t pass up.

“It’s important that we are deliberate and thoughtful in this process … (but) I don’t think things like this come along very often,” Casey said.

The council will further discuss the proposal in a workshop on Thursday, Aug. 2.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

The Casco Masonic Lodge at 20 Mill St. in Yarmouth could be sold to the town for $1, to be used as a “community campus” for the Masons, Yarmouth Community Center Steering Committee and 317 Main Community Music Center.

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