North Yarmouth further delays development decision

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NORTH YARMOUTH — A few weeks after it was postponed to possibly June, the town’s vote on a proposal to redevelop North Yarmouth Memorial School as a municipal and community campus is now delayed until November.

The Board of Selectmen’s development recommendation, discussed in four public meetings in March, was originally scheduled for an April 11 Town Meeting vote. But unanswered questions and critical reaction delayed the vote to a June referendum.

“We heard from the citizens, and they were very vocal, and appropriately so,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Steve Palmer said last month. “… 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.”

After finding that even more time would be needed, selectmen on April 21 unanimously pushed the vote to a Nov. 4 referendum.

Palmer said the board realized that to be able to answer questions asked at the public hearing(s), “we felt that we needed a bit more time than June 9.”

The Board of Selectmen’s proposal 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 almost 3,000 feet of piping, consultant Milan Nevajda of Planning Decisions has said.

Selectman Alex Carr wanted to ensure it would be on record that the town would conduct an engineering analysis of the septic system, with the Yarmouth Water District included as a stakeholder, “so that we have enough data to vote on this in the November election.”

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, an expense 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 comprise 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 sell the school property and launch an expanded municipal campus at the existing Town Hall.

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

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.