Yarmouth seeks proposals for historic fire station

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YARMOUTH— After owning Winslow Station for 64 years, the town is looking for someone with a vision to take over.

A Citizen’s Advisory Task Force is accepting proposals until 2 p.m. July 13 for the purchase, lease, rental, or use of the station. 

The firehouse is in the town’s Medium Density Residential zoning district, but is under consideration for a new zoning designation, CD4, under a proposed Character Based Code 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. 

According to Town Manager Nat Tupper, if a CD4 District is approved, allowed uses would be similar to those in a Village Zone, including those permitted in MDR, as well as business offices, local retail stores, restaurants and schools. 

“Anyone proposing on 20 Center St. could make an offer contingent upon some change in the zoning rules being approved, and the Town Council would have to evaluate whether or not that is in the Town’s interest,” Tupper said. 

The 2,208-square-foot firehouse was built around 1930 and served as the town’s only station from 1953 until around 1994. The building was dedicated to Carl Winslow, who had been the fire chief for 40 years, following in the footsteps of his father, who was chief before him. 

Tupper said the town didn’t use the building much recently until nonprofit Firehouse Arts formed around 2012. 

“They leased it from us for close to nothing,” he said. “But they put a lot of money into fixing it up and used it for a community arts education center.”

Firehouse Arts’ mission was to serve as a space for artists of all levels and ages to learn, teach and collaborate.

“(Firehouse Arts) worked well (in the space) for a while, but they kind of ran out of gas,” Tupper said. 

The Town Council terminated the lease, which would’ve expired this month, after the group folded last November. 

According to Tupper, the town isn’t only looking for the best price for the building; it’s looking for the proposal with the best value for the community. 

“(The firehouse) is in the heart of the village (and) has potential to contribute to community life better than as a storage building,” Tupper said. “So that does not preclude nonprofits from coming in and saying ‘we want to lease (the space) for a buck, but here is what were going to do for Yarmouth in exchange.'”

So far, some businesses and organizations have expressed interest, but Tupper has mostly spoken to individuals about the space. He envisions another arts or theater group using the firehouse for a rehearsal space or art studio. He also said there seems to be interest in using the first floor for commercial space and converting the second floor into residential space. 

Neighbors Barry and Debbie Godowsky would like to see the space used as a residence. The backyard of their home on Main Street faces the firehouse. 

“As neighbors we’re interested in the future of the firehouse,” Debbie said. “It would be nice to see the property be used for some residential use, considering Center Street is virtually all homes.”

The second floor has three rooms, which could potentially serve as a bedroom, kitchen, and living space, and a bathroom with a scuttle to the attic. 

“If someone buys the (building) they can do whatever they want with it,” Godowsky said. “But if the intent is just to rent it, I think that the town needs to be realistic about the use of it, because what someone has a vision of and what they need for it in a community like Yarmouth are two different things. Sometimes people have an aspiration or a dream and you want people to want that (dream), but sometimes they don’t.” 

The Task Force will review all proposals after the submission deadline and recommend to the Town Council the one they believe best fits and advances the interests of Yarmouth. Those interested can contact Tupper by email to discuss their vision for the space. 

“We’ve tried to make it clear that, while money talks, it may be that we accept something that’s not the highest price (and) maybe something that’s not even a high price,” he said. 

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

A task force is accepting proposals until 2 p.m. July 13 for Yarmouth’s historic Winslow Fire Station at 20 Center St. 

Yarmouth Town Manager Nathaniel Tupper answers questions at Winslow Fire Station on Thursday, June 22. 

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