Yarmouth council weighs protecting historic buildings

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council will hold a workshop July 10 to discuss an ordinance that would delay demolition of historic buildings.

The council will also discuss a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Maine Association of Police and consider allocating funds to construct a Harbormaster building.

Typically, the council meets for workshops on the first Thursday of every month. But because of Independence day, the July workshop will be held the following Tuesday.

The July voting meeting has also been moved to July 26, rather than July 19, because the annual Clam Festival runs from July 20-22.

In April, while discussing a Character-Based Development Code, the council added a demolition delay to Chapter 701 of the town zoning. It prohibits demolition of a building or structure that is 75 years or older and is partially or wholly situated in the town’s Demolition Delay Overlay Zone until the Planning Board determines its historic significance.

The provision imposes a 60-120 day period during which alternatives to demolition – such as restoration, relocation or rehabilitation – must be explored if the building is “of value.”

However, after that time period lapses, the property owner would have the right to go forward with demolition if no better solution has been found.

As a result, the council asked the Planning Board to look into and propose a stronger ordinance that would enable the town to prohibit demolition of historic places, deemed historically significant based on criteria such as age and architectural quality.

Now, the Planning Board has recommended options for determining which buildings in town would be protected from demolition indefinitely, including those listed on the National Register of Historic Places, those determined by Maine Historic Preservation Commission as eligible for listing, or those built by 1925.

Town Planner Alex Jaegerman said there are about 10 or 11 places in town already listed on the register and others that the commission has deemed eligible.

They include the Capt. S. C. Blanchard House, 46 Main St.; Camp Hammond, 74 Main St.; Central Parish Church, 146 Main St.; First Parish Congregational Church, 135 Main St.; the Grand Trunk Railroad Station; Capt. Reuben Merrill House, 97 W. Main St.; Mitchell House, 40 Main St.; North Yarmouth Academy, 148 Main St.; North Yarmouth and Freeport Baptist Meetinghouse, 25 Hillside St., and the Cushing and Hannah Prince House, 189 Greely Road.

The year 1925 was selected because it marked the closing of the Forest Paper Co., signaling the end of a period of relative prosperity and a prolonged period of depression and wartime, until the next building boom in the post-war era.

Harbormaster building

Town Manager Nat Tupper said the current Harbormaster building, at the end of Old Shipyard Road near the town landing and boat launch, has long been in need of an improvement.

Because the Harbor & Waterfront/Shellfish office is “critical to Yarmouth’s economy,” Tupper said, the town has already secured partial funding, about $100,000, from the Economic Development Fund.

After voting to increase mooring fees in May, the council hopes to offset the remainder of the cost to the town so the rebuilding would be “neutral to the taxpayer,” Tupper said.

Fees were increased in all categories by $25, and launch/parking fees were increased by $5. This is expected to generate an additional $17,000 per year for the department.

Tupper estimated a new building would cost up to about $250,000.

Police contract

During the workshop, Tupper will also brief the council on changes to three-year contracts for YPD officers and sergeants that are hoped to lure new hires.

With “anticipated retirements and a very competitive job market,” Tupper said salary increases and higher starting salaries, plus insurance plans with a higher deductible, will hopefully “make Yarmouth attractive to new officers.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

The Captain Reuben Merrill House, one of Yarmouth’s historic buildings. (Gordon Chibroski / PPH)

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