North Yarmouth panel presents 5 options for development

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NORTH YARMOUTH — A committee is has come up with five options for proceeding with an economic development plan for the town center in the wake of the fire that destroyed Wescustogo Hall.

The options will be discussed in a meeting at the North Yarmouth Memorial School gym at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17.

Wescustogo Hall was a key element in the first phase of the North Yarmouth Economic Development and Sustainability Committee’s plan for redeveloping the town center, which voters approved in June.

But the Aug. 29 fire that destroyed the 1950s-era former Grange hall on Walnut Hill Road has caused the committee to re-evaluate its plan and seek input from residents.

Town Meeting voters in June approved spending more than $150,000 on the first phase of the economic development plan, which called for installation of a sidewalk from the fire barn to Wescustogo Hall, along with a path from the hall to an approximately 70-foot bridge that would span Toddy Brook ravine.

A trail would lead from there to Town Hall, tying both sides of the town property together with pedestrian access.

Most options developed by the committee now call for the school – due to close in June 2014 – to be redeveloped for private or public uses, with the gym retained for community use.

One option proposes the general plan be left intact, with Wescustogo Hall being replaced where it stood. The building was insured, and valued last year at a little more than $400,000.

In another option, the Wescustogo property – now a re-seeded vacant lot – and adjacent town green would be redeveloped for commercial use. Wescustogo would be rebuilt near Town Hall, where parking would be expanded, and the Old Town Hall on Route 9 would be moved to the area of the current Town Hall.

In a third option, all town facilities and land in the “triangle” bordered by Route 115 and Route 9 – including Town Hall, the Wescustogo lot and the fire barn – would be sold for commercial development. The school would consequently be converted to a full municipal complex, housing all town facilities.

The fourth option calls for the Old Town Hall to be moved to the Wescustogo site, and Phase 1 of the economic development plan to proceed as planned.

That site would be redeveloped for commercial use under the fifth alternative, while the town center plan would proceed, Old Town Hall would be moved to Sharp’s Field, near the current Town Hall, and the school gym would be retained for community use to replace Wescustogo Hall.

“What we really want to do is get people to come in and give ideas,” committee member David Perkins said last week. “… These are meant not to say ‘we want one of these.’ We just want to stimulate thoughts and hear what people have to say.”

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.