Planning group presents N. Yarmouth development options

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NORTH YARMOUTH — A consultant on Tuesday night presented the town with three recommendations for future development of some of its most prized real estate.

In a public question-and-answer meeting at Town Hall, representatives of Planning Decisions – a Portland firm hired by the town – discussed different development scenarios and their potential impact.

Big decisions the town must make include what to do with the vacant land where Wescustogo Hall stood before it was destroyed by fire in August 2013. Also to be decided is the fate of the former North Yarmouth Memorial School, which School Administrative District 51 closed in June and gave to the town.

Residents must also determine what kind of development is most appropriate for the center of North Yarmouth.

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

Scenario 2 was split into two variations. In the 2A plan, the municipal campus would be established 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.

In both variations of the scenario, the Public Works facility and fire station would remain as they are.

A common element of all three options would be the creation of a sewer system into which new development could connect. 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 $355,000, according to Milan Nevajda of Planning Decisions.

The school’s sewer system is “a major asset, and it can enable the higher-density development,” he said. That finding is one of six points that have emerged from Planning Decisions’ discussions with community members, Nevajda explained.

Among the other findings: 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, in contrast to the variety sought in the housing market today.

About 7,000 cars per day drive past the intersection of Routes 9 and 115 in the center of town, part of a section of North Yarmouth referred to as the “golden triangle” that could accommodate commercial development, Nevajda said. His firm also found that town facilities such as Public Works need to expand, and that the town holds lots with development potential in the village.

Nevajda estimated that Scenario 1 could cost $2.46 million to pursue, but could bring $940,000 in revenue, in part due to selling the school for private development. Including the sewer costs, that option’s expense could be $1.88 million.

Scenario 2A could require $1.72 million in development. Subtracting $733,000 in possible revenue from the sale of the Town Hall property for private development, and adding in the sewer costs, the option could cost $1.34 million.

Scenario 2B’s development expenses could cost $3.11 million, due largely to rebuilding the school structure. The same $733,000 in revenue and $355,000 in sewer expense would create a total cost of $2.73 million.

Based in part on input from Tuesday’s meeting, Planning Decisions will present more findings at a Board of Selectmen meeting Nov. 18. Two days later, selectmen are to discuss those recommendations with staff, engineers and town committee members.

The regular Board of Selectmen 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.

The Village Center Redevelopment Process Timeline is posted at northyarmouth.org and subject to change. 

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.