Portland seeks buyers for Cliff Island property

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PORTLAND — Island living could become a little more affordable with the city seeking a buyer for a Cliff Island home and fuel station.

On Aug. 27, the City Council Housing & Community Development Committee finalized a request for proposals for the 19,500-square-foot lot at 16 Fisherman’s Cove.

The property, formerly owned by Holly Kessinger and Bruce Reith of West Buxton, was acquired by the city because of delinquent property taxes dating to 2008.

City tax records describe the property as having a 64-year-old building serving as a general store and a two-bedroom, single-story home built in 1910. The entire property is valued at almost $291,000. With accrued interest, the total amount owed the city is more than $52,000.

The house is about 1,040 square feet and the building used as a store is 392 square feet. The annual tax bill is estimated at more than $5,600.

The intent of the RFP for full council consideration is to get offers that will ensure the fuel station will continue to be a source of energy for island residents, while the house will be available to residents making no more than 120 percent of the median Cumberland County annual income.

That amount is now $98,000, city Housing Director Mary Davis said in a June 25 committee meeting on the property.

The willingness to keep the fuel depot operational is worth 50 of 110 points on the RFP, followed by the affordable housing commitment at 30 points and a purchase price at 20 points. The city would like 20-year commitments from a buyer on affordable housing and fuel service.

City officials may also be willing to consider selling the home and depot separately, or to make a swap for about two or three acres, in order to build a small Public Services facility on the island.

There are now two, 2,000-gallon and one 500-gallon fuel tanks on the property, and new owners would be required to obtain necessary state and federal permits to continue their use.

The site is also in a Federal Emergency Management Agency Special Hazard Flood Zone, so a new owner may be required to buy flood insurance, according to a draft of the RFP.

An initial assessment of environmental conditions on the property by Westbrook-based Credere Associates showed there is a kerosene drum possibly leaking into a crawl space at the house and other remediation needed on property grounds.

An Aug. 7 memo from city Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell said the city applied for a “brownfield” grant from the Portland Development Corp. to remove the hazards.

Additional remediation, including asbestos removal, may be needed on the house, according to city documents.

Mitchell said the city will not undertake further site assessments, but could be willing to “explore partnerships with buyer(s) to clean up the remainder of the property.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.