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N. Yarmouth voters to decide on Wescustogo rule change

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N. Yarmouth voters to decide on Wescustogo rule change

NORTH YARMOUTH — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday scheduled a special Town Meeting next month concerning a change in rules for the Wescustogo Hall property.

The board also opted to spend up to $2,500 from the selectmen's contingency account for a land use density study of the North Yarmouth Memorial School property, to determine the maximum future use of the 26-acre site.

A public hearing will be held Feb. 6, and a special Town Meeting Feb. 25 – locations to be determined – for residents to weigh whether to remove a 1997 directive regarding Wescustogo Hall.

Residents voted at Town Meeting that year to accept the building from its Grange association. Doing so obligated the town to retain the facility for community use, and to retain an open space within the building, interim Town Manager Marnie Diffin said. The town now must decide whether to maintain those requirements, or change them at Town Meeting.

As part of the rules, the town government must rebuild the structure in the event of its destruction, and an independent entity with no legal connection to the town government is not allowed to act in the town's place, Diffin explained. Removing the directive would free the government to move in a different path.

The economic development panel calls for the Wescustogo Hall lot to be offered to the North Yarmouth Historical Society, allowing the group to either move the Old Town House there from Route 9 and use it for storage and meetings, or raise funds to construct a new building on the site.

Insurance proceeds from Wescustogo Hall should be used to build a new structure, either attached to or near Town Hall, the committee proposes. It would function in the same way as Wescustogo Hall, where events like elections, meetings and weddings were held.

The options for NYMS include several decision points, assuming the town accepts the property from School Administrative District 51 after the school closes in June.

If the town accepts NYMS from School Administrative District 51 – by either a vote of selectmen or Town Meeting – after the school closes in June, it must decide whether it will keep or sell it. Or whether it will keep the entire building, and use it for community or town office space.

The town could also decide to retain only part of the school, such as the gym, and have another organization occupy the rest of the building.

A senior housing facility is one use that has been suggested for the school, but a land use ordinance change would be required to facilitate that use, Diffin said earlier this month.

The North Yarmouth Economic Development and Sustainability Committee presented the board in December 2013 with a multi-part recommendation for developing municipal properties in the town center, a concept that had to be revised in the wake of the blaze that destroyed Wescustogo Hall four months before.

Among other suggestions, the committee calls for the town to partner with a developer to redevelop NYMS "as either elderly housing or a co-working/office sharing site," according to a document the panel submitted to the town.

"As part of this effort, (the town would) preserve rights to public spaces on the Memorial School parcel, such as the baseball field," the document states. "As we discuss options with the developer, we can determine whether the Town can preserve certain uses to the interior of the Memorial School building, such as the gymnasium."

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