FALMOUTH – The Town Council has selected a $3.25 million bid from OceanView at Falmouth to buy and redevelop the former Plummer-Motz and Lunt school properties, town officials announced Tuesday.
The retirement community offered at least $1.25 million more than two other potential buyers – Redfern North Atlantic, a local group of development and design professionals; and the Friends School of Portland, which also was part of Redfern’s proposal.
Town officials said OceanView’s proposal would satisfy a wide variety of councilors’ goals for the 20-acre school complex, which was the subject of a contentious referendum in June.
The $25 million project would add more than 60 senior-housing units to Falmouth’s property tax base, increase OceanView’s annual tax bill by $323,000, allow the town to establish a community recreation center and provide a variety of other public amenities.
“We tried to come to a meeting of the minds in the middle,” said Teresa Pierce, the council chairwoman. “It’s a melding of the seven of us and what we value.”
The council will hold a public hearing and possibly vote on OceanView’s proposal at 7 p.m. Monday.
The two schools closed in June, before the Falmouth Elementary School opened in September on Woodville Road. Voters narrowly rejected a proposal in June to redevelop the school buildings into a community center and a public library.
An appraisal in late 2009 valued the school complex on Lunt Road at $3 million if there were no zoning restrictions. The pending deal with OceanView would require the town to expand its retirement community overlay district, said Town Manager Nathan Poore.
OceanView was considered the front-runner to buy the complex after councilors met privately with its representatives just before advertising for proposals.
OceanView plans to build 35 cottages and 36 apartments or townhouses on land behind the former schools. It also plans a 30-bed Alzheimer’s care facility in or near the Lunt building, and affordable senior housing in either Lunt or the Plummer building.
“We’re always interested in any property that’s contiguous with one of our properties,” said Matt Teare, development director of Sea Coast Management Co., which also owns The Highlands retirement community and the Highland Green adult resort community in Topsham.
Councilors were confident in OceanView’s ability to complete the project as proposed and find buyers, given its record and continued growth despite the recent recession, Pierce said.
The pending deal would let the town keep the Motz building and develop it further as a community recreation center, as it’s now being used.
The council will consider setting aside the estimated $2 million profit from the sale of the school properties to spend on a recreation center, Pierce said.
If the town decides within five years that it no longer wants the Motz building and its 2-acre parcel, OceanView will have to buy it for $200,000, according to the pending sale agreement.
OceanView also would develop a 3-acre public village green in the middle of the project on Lunt Road. It would be maintained by OceanView and continue to be owned by the town.
OceanView would upgrade the Lunt gym into a full-fledged auditorium, which would be available for public use at least 40 percent of the time. The company also is considering plans for a senior community center, an adult day-care center and an indoor pool that would be available for public use.
OceanView may provide space for a public library or a private school in the Plummer building, Teare said. Company officials have already talked with library trustees and representatives of the Friends School.
Redfern North Atlantic was disappointed that its maximum $2 million offer, including $1.3 million from the Friends School, didn’t win the council’s support, said Jonathan Culley, a principal on the development team.
“The town chose the safest route,” Culley said. “The town missed an opportunity to do something bold and progressive.”
Redfern’s proposal called for converting the Plummer-Motz buildings into a community center and office space, creating a town green for special events, building 16 townhouses and seven single-family homes, and adding retail space, including a food market and a bakery.
The Friends School, which rents space on Mackworth Island, would have bought the Lunt building and roughly 10 acres.
On its own, the Friends School offered several proposals, ranging from $800,000 for the Lunt building alone to $1.48 million for the Lunt building and 16 acres.
Pierce said the council was impressed with all of the proposals and hopes that Redfern will develop its plan at another site in Falmouth, and that the Friends School will stay in town, possibly by working with OceanView.
If the council approves the OceanView deal, construction will begin in January 2013 and new residents will start moving in six months later.
The project would add at least 100 people to the retirement community, which now has 270 residents, and would increase its property assessment from $33.8 million to $58.8 million. The deal doesn’t include tax-increment financing, but it could be negotiated in the future, said Theo Holtwijk, the town’s long-range planning director.
The council plans to use about $1 million from the deal to offset the cost of removing a federal conservation restriction from the 20-acre parcel and transferring it to other town-owned land that will be set aside for recreation.
The restriction was added to the Lunt Road land in 1981 when the town got a $20,000 grant for recreation improvements from the National Park Service.
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: