Scarborough Downs again under contract, enters race for Amazon HQ2

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SCARBOROUGH — It may be what Town Manager Thomas Hall called the “longest of long shots,” but the town hopes to make Scarborough Downs a future Amazon headquarters.

Hall also announced during the Oct. 18 Town Council meeting that Scarborough Downs is under contract to be sold to a Maine-based company willing to take a chance on the Amazon proposal.

In other council business, horseback riders and residents with stickered town-owned trash bins learned they will get reprieves from two ordinances.

According to Hall, there is a proposal in place for Maine-based Crossroads Holdings LLC to buy the racetrack. He said the property went under contract within the last two weeks and the agreement is expected to close the first week of January.

Hall declined to reveal the names of the buyers under the limited liability corporation, but said the deal has an aggressive timeline and a fairly short due diligence phase.

According to the Maine secretary of state’s office, Crossroads Holdings was formed Oct. 2, and attorney Lawrence Clough of Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry in Portland filed the paperwork. Clough on Thursday declined to reveal the names of his clients.

Attorney Ed MacColl, who represents Scarborough Downs owner Sharon Terry,  declined to comment Wednesday morning about any pending deals. MacColl said he would talk to his client to see if any information could be shared, but did not reply as of press time Thursday.

According to published reports, Terry has previously asked for $7.5 million for the 480-acre property, which includes a grandstand/clubhouse, barns, a half-mile racetrack and outlying land.

Amazon, based in Seattle, is asking cities or regions to submit proposals to build a second headquarters, known as HQ2, that would eventually employ 50,000 workers. While places like Boston, Atlanta, Denver, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York are submitting applications, so too are second-tier cities like Rochester and Buffalo, New York; Gary, Indiana; Louisville, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio, among others.

So there’s nothing stopping Scarborough from applying as well, even though Amazon has said it prefers a metro region of 1 million people or more.

The population of the entire state of Maine is 1.3 million.

Councilor Chris Caiazzo compared the idea of Amazon building in Scarborough as “the proverbial chihuahua catching the bus.”

“If Amazon comes, we should send them a thank-you via a drone,” Councilor Katy Foley joked, in reference to Amazon’s much-publicized intention to deliver packages by drone.

Chairman Shawn Babine called the proposal “a great opportunity,” and called work that went into it a “good academic exercise.”

In the request for proposals, Amazon has stated it will hire as many 50,000 new full-time employees with an average annual total compensation exceeding $100,000 over the next 10-15 years. The project is expected to have more than $5 billion in capital expenditures. The RFP also indicates the company could build a facility of up to 80,000 square feet.

Hall said he spoke to the new future owners of the racetrack property Wednesday morning and they confirmed they are on board with the proposal to Amazon.

“We didn’t want to proceed if the future owner was totally opposed it,” Hall said.

Hall said the town would submit the proposal to Amazon on Thursday, Oct. 19, which is the deadline. He said he talked to officials in surrounding communities and was not aware of any other municipality in the region submitting a proposal.

On Wednesday, however, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority in Brunswick also submitted a proposal to Amazon for a 175-acre piece of land. Steve Levesque, executive director of the agency, on Thursday said Brunswick Landing may be a “long shot” for HQ2, but could get the company’s attention for a smaller project.

Hall, meanwhile, indicated there is other property surrounding Scarborough Downs that could be included in his town’s proposal.

“We focused on Scarborough Downs because it is a single ownership,” he said.

As for other plans for Scarborough Downs, Hall said the new buyers have not been clear about what they want to do with the property, but they “appreciate the (zoning) district requires a master plan. …  They are in the process of engaging consultants.”

The 480-acre racetrack is zoned as the Crossroads Planned Development District, which, according to the town’s website, allows “a mix of uses, guided by design standards and a conceptual master plan, which results in a vibrant center for development located in the heart of Scarborough.”

In March, an investment group led by Cohassett, Massachusetts-based developer Thomas Powers announced an agreement had been signed to acquire Scarborough Downs. But the company never exercised the purchase agreement. 

Other business

The council Wednesday also voted to delay an ordinance change for one year that would require equestrians to strap manure containment bags on their horses if they ride on the beach.

Councilors had voted unanimously Sept. 6 to amend the Horse Beach Permit Ordinance to require riders to attach the waste bags.

Horse owners, who can access the beach from Oct. 1-March 31 with a permit, showed up Oct. 4 to express their concerns. They told the council the bags are not available in Maine, their saddles could not accommodate the bags, and their horses would need training.

An amendment to the ordinance about Garbage and Recycling Collection and Disposal that includes a six-month delay on a ban from trash carts from being decorated narrowly passed a second reading, 4-3. Councilors Foley, Kate St. Clair and Peter Hayes voted against it.

The council also tabled a vote that would start the process to discontinue the town’s interest in a Pine Point beach path that runs from King Street between the properties of Charles P. Gendron and The Gables by the Sea Condominium Association.

The deal would guarantee public access forever in exchange for discontinuing the town’s interest in the Avenue 2 land.  The path has historically been a public right of way, but it is uncertain who actually owns the land.

The council will take up the matter at its Dec. 6 meeting. Two public hearings will also be scheduled at a later date.

 Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

The grandstand at Scarborough Downs last March.

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