North Yarmouth to hold hearings on 2 school redevelopment proposals

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NORTH YARMOUTH — The town will hold two public hearings next month on a pair of proposals concerning redevelopment of the former North Yarmouth Memorial School.

Along with setting the hearing dates, the Board of Selectmen on Feb. 16 also voted 3-1 in favor of a slate of members for an ad-hoc building and design committee for a new Wescustogo Hall.

Both hearings will be held at the 120 Memorial Highway school, which School Administrative District 51 closed in 2014 and transferred to the town. The Saturday, March 19, meeting begins at 10 a.m.; the gathering on Wednesday, March 23, starts at 7 p.m.

MemoryWorks and Volunteers of America of Northern New England, both of Portland, submitted a combined bid, and A.H. Grover of North Yarmouth presented the other. Both can be viewed at northyarmouth.org.

Following the two hearings, the board will “bring a recommended plan for the NYMS property to a municipal vote in a manner that will maximize resident turnout,” according to information posted on the town website.

The town sent requests for proposals for re-purposing the approximately 20-acre property to more than 30 developers and firms. The RFP followed a referendum approved by voters last November calling for the the town to cease all work toward developing the school as a municipal and community campus, with creation of a municipal sewer system to facilitate new development.

It also called for Wescustogo Hall – the community-gathering place destroyed by fire in 2013 – to be rebuilt as stipulated in a 1997 agreement with the town; for Town Hall to be maintained and renovated; for the town to seek proposals for the school building, and then gather citizen feedback on all proposals and have any plans for the school voted upon by the town.

Grover’s proposal contains many elements, including demolishing parts of the school building, but preserving the gym and stage area as part of an approximately 4,200-square-foot space. A new, approximately 4,000-square-foot Wescustogo Hall is proposed to be built on an existing foundation and concrete slab, and attached to the existing space.

A 32-lot senior housing community would be built and sold in several phases, with a buffer established between those buildings and the community center.

MemoryWorks and Volunteers of America call for building a 40- to 60-unit senior affordable housing facility to be called Crossroads (after the property’s location near the intersection of Route 9 and Route 115).

Selectman Steve Palmer questioned what would happen if neither proposal was successful with the community.

“I don’t want the public to think that because you have a public hearing to listen to two proposals, they must choose between one of them,” he said in a video of the meeting posted at vimeo.com/155675556. “Because if that happens, I’m going to be very upset. That can’t be the message that we give to the public.”

“They don’t have to pick either one of these,” Selectman Jim Moulton responded. “If they don’t think they’re a good proposal, then I suppose we go around and do it again.”

The Board of Selectmen on Feb. 16 also appointed seven residents to serve on the Wescustogo Building and Design Committee: Stephen Barr, Clark Baston, Rod Duckwork, Stephen Friedrick, Paul Hodgetts, Brian Sites and Jennifer Smith.

Darla Hamlin, a former selectwoman, will serve as an alternate.

Palmer, who voted against the motion to appoint the committee, said he would have preferred a larger pool of applicants from which to select.

“I’m somewhat disappointed that only eight people have volunteered,” he said.

While the committee does not yet have a specific charge, Alex Carr, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, noted in a Feb. 19 email that he expects his panel to charge it with helping the facility’s eventual builder and developer meet community needs during reconstruction.

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

Two public hearings on a pair of proposals for reuse of North Yarmouth Memorial School will be held next month.

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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.