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North Yarmouth hopes to make town center more inviting

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North Yarmouth hopes to make town center more inviting

NORTH YARMOUTH — Making the area around Town Hall more vibrant and noticeable was one of the desires expressed during a public forum Oct. 18.

The Economic Development and Sustainability Committee has been gathering ideas on how to make the most of 114 acres of town-owned land in the village center. The group plans to submit recommendations for the town properties to the Board of Selectmen on Nov. 6; the recommendations could go to a public vote at the June 2013 Town Meeting.

"Everybody's on board," committee member David Perkins said Monday. "The major comment that came back was to identify top priorities, and to phase things, so to decide what we want to do first, and to make sure we got moving on that."

Much of the feedback was uniform on enhancements to the Town Hall property, Perkins said. The building – accessed by Route 9 in a triangle with the fire and rescue station and Wescustogo Hall – is hidden from nearby and well-traveled Route 115 (Walnut Hill Road) by dense vegetation.

Residents expressed desire to thin the vegetation and create visual corridors, "so as you're driving through the town you will understand that that's where the Town Hall is, and the town center," Perkins said.

Another suggestion was to include businesses in that triangle, too, including the sale of the so-called Sharp House, near Town Hall, to a business. The building came with the Town Hall property and has been used for rental housing, Perkins said.

Development of the spent, town-owned Cassidy Pit, on Walnut Hill Parkway, is also being explored by the committee. Public Works could be moved to that area, which could be made into a business park to grow the town's commercial tax base and create more jobs.

"If you don't have a commercial tax base at all, then you're relying entirely on residential properties to pay property taxes, and that can be very painful," Perkins said, noting that while the effort to expand that base is important, so is creation of "a dynamic town center," where the community can come together.

Workforce housing is one idea for the Parsonage Road space that Public Works would be vacating.

A possibility for North Yarmouth Memorial School, if it is closed in the coming years, is to convert it to senior housing – similar to the project taking place at the recently closed Drowne Road School in Cumberland. It has also been suggested that a sidewalk that runs along Route 9 to the school could continue up Parsonage Road and onto Walnut Hill Road.

Information and comments can be submitted to Perkins at dperkins@perkinsolson.com, committee Chairman Al Ahlers (aahlers@maine.rr.com), members Andy Walsh (awalsh@gwi.net) and Katie Murphy (katie@univoicehistory.com), and consultant Gwen Hilton (ghilton1@myfairpoint.net).

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