Sale of Western Avenue land could cost South Portland up to $125K

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council voted 6-1 in a special meeting on Monday night to spend up to $125,000 to help a local developer remove underground utilities beneath the recently closed Gorham Road extension.

The approval removes the final hurdle to the city’s attempt to sell a 1.4-acre parcel on Western Avenue to Vincent Maietta, who is planning to build a 34,000-square-foot shopping center at 85 Western Ave.

Maietta and the city agreed to the sale more than two years ago, but it has been held up by the removal of underground utilities, such as fiber optic lines, which could cost up to $250,000.

Maietta offered to pay the city $600,000 for the property, which would be combined with an adjacent, 1.5-acre lot. But he asked the city to split the cost of moving the utilities.

“I think the buyer is being more than fair,” Mayor Tom Coward said. “If he wanted to dig his heels in, he could probably make us pay the whole thing.”

Councilor Tom Blake opposed the allocation, which would come from the Fairchild Tax Increment Financing account.

Blake on Tuesday said he believes Maietta originally agreed to pay up to $200,000 to remove the utilities. He also criticized the city’s decision to hold a non-televised emergency meeting to consider the issue.

While the majority of councilors believed the city was obligated to free the property of encumbrances, Blake said the only requirement outlined in the agreement with Maietta was for the city to close Gorham Road extension, which it did on Sept. 8.

“We basically did him a $100,000 favor,” Blake said. “If (Maietta) really felt we needed to provide clear title … he would have come after us for the 100 percent.”

City Manager Jim Gailey said a special meeting was recommended by city staff to maximizing the remaining 2010 construction season. The sale was scheduled to close on Thursday, Gailey said, and site work has already begun.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or