North Yarmouth selectmen to weigh options for school, Wescustogo properties

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Interim Town Manager Marnie Diffin on Jan. 14 plans to present the Board of Selectmen with scenarios for use of the soon-to-close North Yarmouth Memorial School and the former Wescustogo Hall property.

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 does take the building – by either a vote of selectmen or Town Meeting – it must decide whether it will keep or sell it. Or whether it will keep the entire building, and use it for either community or town office space.

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

“What I think (the Board of Selectmen is) trying to do is say ‘OK, what do we need to do to answer some of these questions?'” Diffin said.

If the town decides not to keep the building, an appraisal of the property, with or without the building, could occur. It could be determined whether the septic system has value, and whether well testing results show that a nearby groundwater protection zone line could be moved in order to allow for denser development options at the site.

Other considerations, she said, include whether there should be easements on the property, or establishment of a tax increment financing district.

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

The North Yarmouth Economic Development and Sustainability Committee presented the Board of Selectmen last month with a multipart 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 last August.

Among other suggestions, the committee calls for the town to partner with a developer to “redevelop Memorial School 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.”

Concerning the Wescustogo property, residents voted at a 1997 Town Meeting 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, Diffin said; the town now must decide whether to maintain those requirements, or change them at Town Meeting.

The economic development panel calls for the Wescustogo Hall lot to be offered to the North Yarmouth Historical Society, so that the group could 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.

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.