Planning group offers North Yarmouth 3 development variations

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Next year could be a pivotal one for residents, as they decide which of two town-owned parcels to develop as a municipal campus – the existing Town Hall or recently closed North Yarmouth Memorial School.

Representatives of Planning Decisions – a Portland firm hired by the town to consult on future development of its key assets – presented a final report Tuesday on different development scenarios and their potential impacts.

The town must decide what to do with the vacant land where Wescustogo Hall stood before it was destroyed by fire in August 2013, as well as the fate of the school, which School Administrative District 51 closed in June and gave to the town.

Residents must also determine what manner of development is best for the center of town, a well-traveled area near the intersection of Route 9 and Route 115 dubbed the “golden triangle.”

“We know the village is the municipal, administrative center of town; virtually every office is in town, all of those activities are happening there,” Milan Nevajda of Planning Decisions said. “We also know it’s the cultural center. Wescustogo used to be there; it’s where we consider the replacement for Wescustogo to be.”

Under the consultants’ Scenario 1, a municipal campus would be established at the current Town Hall at 10 Village Square Road. Public Works facilities would be located at the department’s existing site, and the fire station would be renovated where it stands.

Scenario 2 is split into two variations. In the 2A plan, the municipal campus would be located at the now-vacant school; the building would be used, although part of it could be demolished if necessary. Scenario 2B would see the school demolished and replaced by a new building.

Eight new homes could be built in the first plan, while 14 could be built in both variations of the second, Nevajda said. About 50,000 square feet of new and renovated commercial units could exist after 20 years, he projected, with 340 new homes on Scenario 1 and 334 in both 2A and 2B.

In all scenarios, the Public Works facility and fire station would stay as they are.

“Whether or not … the Wescustogo parcel goes for commercial use, or whether or not it stays, that’s for the town to decide down the road,” Nevajda said. “But it is part of that triangle area that has excellent access to high-volume roads.

“If commercial (activity were) going to happen in the village, the Wescustogo parcel would be an excellent location for it,” he continued. “That’s just something that you’ll have to decide and balance with what you want to see in the village.”

Nevajda noted that in Scenarios 2A and 2B, either Sharp’s Field or the recreation field by the school could be designated the Village Green and be connected to a future Wescustogo development.

All three options share a common element: the creation of a sewer system with connections for new development. That system would run from the school’s existing system into the center of town, comprising nearly 3,000 linear feet of piping and costing about $740,000, Nevajda said.

He has noted that demand for housing in the North Yarmouth area is increasing, but due to lack of infrastructure, the town has only been able to offer primarily rural development, as opposed to the variety sought in the housing market today.

“It’s not what we’ve seen,” Nevajda said. “The market has not developed it, and there are reasons for that, mainly because the restrictions on development in the village are too strong.”

The Board of Selectmen on Nov. 20 was to discuss the options with staff, engineers and town committee members. The regular board meetings on Dec. 2, Dec. 16, and Jan. 6, 2015, will provide opportunities for residents to ask questions and comment on the proposals.

A public presentation on the redevelopment options is to be held Jan. 7, and the board will discuss that feedback in a workshop Jan. 14.

Selectmen on Jan. 20 may discuss a proposed special Town Meeting warrant and timing of that meeting, where voters would act on redeveloping the village center, along with how to fund those actions.

A Village Center Redevelopment Process Timeline is posted at northyarmouth.org.

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.