January 7

Westbrook narrowly rejects sale of former Prides Corner school

A developer wanted to build 98 condominiums on the site, but neighbors strongly objected.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WESTBROOK — The City Council voted Monday to reject a developer’s proposal to buy the former Prides Corner Elementary School for a condominium project.

click image to enlarge

A developer proposed renovating the Prides Corner School building and constructing two three-story buildings on the site to house a total of 98 condominiums.

2012 Press Herald file photo

Before the vote, about a dozen residents spoke against the project proposed by Vincent Maietta, saying it would generate too much traffic and wouldn’t fit in with the neighborhood of single-family homes.

Maietta proposed to renovate the school building and construct two three-story buildings on the site to house a total of 98 condominiums. The council voted 4-3 not to sell the 10-acre site and former school building to Maietta for $650,000.

Councilors Mike Foley, Victor Chau and Paul Emery were in favor of the sale. Councilors Brendan Rielly, Mike Sanphy, John O’Hara and Gary Rairdon were opposed to it.

The council originally was scheduled to vote on a purchase-and-sale agreement in November, but residents raised concerns about the project at a neighborhood meeting in October, prompting city officials to ask Maietta to revise his proposal.

Although the number of units didn’t change, as some residents hoped, the amended agreement called for retaining existing buffers and creating bigger setbacks for taller buildings. It also would have prohibited subsidized housing – a concern that residents at Monday’s meeting still had.

Kathy Sincerbeaux questioned whether people with housing choice vouchers could live in the building.

“Is that what’s going to happen here? Can you tell me that?” she asked the council.

Sincerbeaux, who lives on Chase Hill Drive, said she was also worried about traffic. She said it already takes her 10 minutes to get out of her driveway to go to work in the morning.

Joe Moger, whose house on Pride Street is next to the school building, feared that his windows would stare into those of one of the new three-story buildings proposed for the property.

“Would you like that in your back bedroom?” Moger asked, inviting the councilors to come to his house and see for themselves.

Shirley Lawrence, who also lives on Pride Street next to the school, took issue with the height of the buildings.

“It doesn’t fit the neighborhood. It looks terrible,” she said.

She and several others said they would prefer to see the building remain a school – one they said the city could use as enrollment grows.

Prides Corner Elementary School, built in 1950 and in dire need of repair, closed in the spring of 2012, setting in motion a reconfiguration of grades among the city’s three other elementary schools.

“This should not be a discussion about whether we want to impact the schools,” said Councilor O’Hara. “It should be whether we want to sell the Prides Corner property.”

The property had been on the market for a year and, before Maietta, drew serious interest only from developers that wanted to build subsidized housing, which neighbors opposed, said City Administrator Jerre Bryant.

Although the project would have needed additional approvals from the Planning Board and City Council to be built, Council President Rielly said he didn’t feel comfortable moving that process forward without having a more concrete proposal.

“When I vote on something I want to be able to define what it is. ... We’re not there,” he said.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

Twitter: lesliebridgers

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