North Yarmouth development vote postponed until at least June

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Unanswered questions and critical reaction will delay a town vote on a proposal to redevelop North Yarmouth Memorial School as a municipal and community campus.

The Board of Selectmen’s development recommendation, discussed in four public meetings last month, was scheduled for a Town Meeting vote on Saturday, April 11.

But it is now likely to go to a June referendum, board Chairman Steve Palmer said March 26.

“We heard from the citizens, and they were very vocal, and appropriately so,” Palmer said. “… They’re not ready to make a decision, and the board needs to provide some more information. This gives us a better time-line to do that.”

While the proposal drew criticism and questions at the third in a series of public meetings March 18, the final meeting on March 24 produced more mixed opinion, Palmer said.

The board will continue to pursue its recommended option, after providing additional information to residents, the chairman said.

The proposal – which selectmen approved 4-1 on Feb. 3, with Paul Napolitano opposed – calls for the town to sell the existing Town Hall for housing or commercial development, and for a municipal sewer system to be created to help facilitate new development in accordance with the town’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan.

That system would run from the school’s existing system into the center of town, requiring nearly 3,000 feet of piping, consultant Milan Nevajda of Planning Decisions has said.

School Administrative District 51 transferred the school to the town last year after closing the nearly 40-year-old building.

A facilities study by Stephen Blatt Architects has priced the renovation option at $2.67 million, a cost that would include $1.4 million to renovate the former school as a Town Hall, $650,000 to renovate the gym as a community center, and $70,000 to demolish the rest of the building. Approximately 14,800 square feet at the rear of the existing building would be unused; 12,500 of that could be rented, if not demolished.

The new Town Hall and community center would total 24,000 square feet.

The project expenses would be offset by the sale of the existing Town Hall land and tax values of new properties built there, Selectman Mark Girard has said.

Other options Planning Decisions presented were to demolish the school entirely and build new, or to sell the school property and create an expanded municipal campus at the existing 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.