Yarmouth leaving $100K 'on the table' in fire station sale

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council on Aug. 17 granted preliminary approval to a bid of $100,000 for Winslow Fire Station, turning down a bid for twice that amount. 

Potential buyer Amanda Mitchell’s plan is to turn the 2,200-square-foot building at 20 Center St. into a community art space called Delany Arts.

The council voted 5-1 in favor of Mitchell’s proposal. Councilor James MacLeod was absent. 

Councilor David Craig opposed the Winslow Station Task Force’s recommendation, and questioned why the highest bid of $200,000 wasn’t the proposal being considered. 

“I’m concerned that we had an offer that was twice this and we’re leaving $100,000 on the table,” Craig said. “I’m not ready to vote for this just yet simply based on that.”

Town Manager Nat Tupper said although he could not speak for all six members of the Task Force, the highest bid was to turn the station into a craft brewery with a small retail space. He said that proposal could have faced opposition, given the location in a residential neighborhood at the heart of town. 

Councilors Tim Shannon, April Humphrey, Pat Thompson, Robert Waeldner, and Richard Plourde voted in favor of the Task Force recommendation.

“This proposal is about as close to perfect as we’ve got and I think having a brewery at that location in the neighborhood could be problematic,” Shannon said. “I hate to see us leave money on the table, too, but that money came with such encumbrances and problems and potential downsides that I think the committee did a good job with what they had.”

When the town first began accepting proposals for the space in June, Tupper said it wasn’t necessarily looking for the best price for the building; it was looking for the proposal with the best value for the community. 

“The competitive proposal that was offered was to purchase the station … to dedicate it to be used for a brewery with a small retail space, and the committee felt that was not a good fit for the neighborhood and the location and not in the best interest of the community,” he said Aug. 17. “Whether one agrees or not, that was the (Task Force’s) recommendation.” 

Sale of the building is contingent on the council’s final approval in September, when Tupper will present the council with a contract zone agreement and closing documents.

The first floor of the two-story station would include an art studio for Mitchell, a public seating area, a small retail space, and equipment, such as a kiln and pottery wheels, available for public use.

Mitchell said she hopes Delany Arts will be a space for artists to collaborate, create and teach. 

“The way I look to do art is kind of a social thing,” she said. “I want to learn; I love learning from people.”

Mitchell has not decided what she would like to do with the upstairs of the building, which will be the second phase of her project. She said she is considering office or additional art class space. 

Though Mitchell’s bid wasn’t the highest of five proposed, the Task Force felt Delany Arts was the best fit for the town. 

“I like the fact that Amanda is going to work with the exterior of the building,” Task Force member Tom Bell said. “The business model doesn’t need to make revenue to pay for all of this … the business itself is kind of a hobby.” 

Mitchell said she plans to immediately invest $125,000 in renovations, including replacing the station’s roof, windows, siding, and garage door and revamping the first-floor interior. 

She intends to keep a plaque, dedicated to Carl Winslow, who was fire chief for 40 years, on the front of the building.

The building is in the town’s Medium Density Residential zoning district, but with authorization by the town, 20 Center St. will be rezoned as part of the Village I District, specifically to allow improvements to the building and operation of Delany Arts.

According to the town’s zoning ordinance, the MDR District is designed to provide a “wholesome living environment” close to the center of town. Permitted uses include municipal buildings, manufactured housing, home occupations, storage buildings and churches. 

The purpose of the Village Zone, which sits immediately adjacent to the MDR District, is to provide an area of diversity and vitality that contains a mixture of small-scale business, professional and retail shops and offices, as well as governmental services and residential uses. Permitted uses include business offices, small retail space, inns, schools, and restaurants. 

As long as things go as planned and she receives final approval of the sale in September, Mitchell said she hopes to begin renovations in late fall. 

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

Pending final approval from the Town Council in September, Amanda Mitchell plans to renovate the town’s historic Winslow Fire Station into an art studio and collaborative art space called Delany Arts. 

Amanda Mitchell plans to preserve the Winslow Fire Station’s history by keeping the plaque that dedicated the station to Carl Winslow hung on the front of the building.