Navy to sell remaining Brunswick base land to redevelopment authority

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BRUNSWICK — The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority has reached an agreement with the U.S. Navy for acquisition of the remaining property on the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Approximately 1,100 acres will be transferred to MRRA over the next few months.

Instead of paying the Navy up front for the fair-market value of the land, which authority Executive Director Steve Levesque estimated at $20 million to $30 million, the redevelopment authority is putting down a $25,000 deposit and signing a $3 million promissory note to be paid over the course of 20 years.

In addition, the Navy and MRRA entered into a revenue-sharing agreement for a percentage of the proceeds from future property sales and leases at Brunswick Landing, as the redeveloped base is known, through 2034.

“This allows us to get (the land) affordably, but the Navy will share on the potential upside … which is from my perspective, is the way it should be” Levesque said Wednesday.

“If there is success in redevelopment, the government,  i.e. the people of the United States who paid for this place, are going to get a return on their investment.”

The had the support of members of Maine’s congressional delegation, who worked to pass the National Defense Authorization Act. That legislation removed the requirement that the Department of Defense seek fair market value for land on shuttered military bases before it could be sold.

In a press release, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said the law was designed to “facilitate the quicker conveyance of land at former military installations via (economic development conveyances), so that it does not sit fallow for years, costing taxpayers millions in caretaker expenses and failing to be re-purposed toward economic development.”

Levesque said he was thrilled with the way the deal turned out.

“I think this is a win-win situation, it shows a terrific partnership, and we couldn’t be more happy with this deal,” he said on Wednesday.

Since the Navy and MRRA reached an agreement in December 2010 allowing the redevelopment authority to enter into leases with tenants, MRRA has been subletting buildings and land while the Navy continued to own the property.

Tuesday’s announcement means MRRA becomes the landlord, enabling the redevelopment authority to lease property more quickly than before.

Levesque said although the Navy was very accommodating with MRRA, it still took about a month just to request a lease from the Navy, not counting the additional time to negotiate the terms of the lease with the renter.

“This is certainly going to shorten that up,” he said.

One of the first potential sales of the newly acquired property could be to Auburn-based developer George Schott.

Schott purchased 702 Navy housing units from Northeast Housing LLC last October, which acquired them from the Navy when it privatized much of its military housing in 2004. But Schott still does not own the land beneath the homes, meaning he can only rent, not sell them.

Levesque said he couldn’t discuss the details of the agreement, except that Schott would be purchasing the land at fair-market value.

In February, MRRA acquired its first deed from the Navy, the 750-acre airport property. Bowdoin College, the town of Brunswick and Southern Maine Community College have or will be receiving no-cost property conveyances in the near future.

The remaining properties are still undergoing environmental clean up by the Navy.

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

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