SOUTH PORTLAND – With a few caveats, the South Portland City Council has authorized the city manager to move ahead with sale of the historic armory located at the foot of the Casco Bay Bridge.

The armory is owned by the city, but with interest in redevelopment of the building high, the council is hoping to soon add the property to its tax rolls.

At its meeting on Monday, the council unanimously agreed to move forward with a direct sale of the armory, without requiring a public bidding process.

Under the council vote, City Manager Jim Gailey was given permission to take any action required to create a real estate listing for the armory, as well as the ability to review any offers and execute a purchase and sales agreement.

While Gailey has not named any of the interested parties, he said the city has received many inquiries regarding the armory since it was announced in February that the Fore River Sound Stage film company was giving up its five-year lease.

In determining who to sell the armory to, the council said that Gailey must take into consideration four factors.

Those are the price offered, the willingness of the buyer to consent to a fac?ade easement, which would require the front exterior of the building to remain intact, the willingness of the buyer to provide a public easement to allow a trail connection between the Greenbelt Walkway and Hinckley Park, and the willingness of the buyer to allow the fire department to continue using the west wing as garage space at least until the new public works facility is built.

With the termination of the Fore River Sound Stage lease, the zoning on the armory property has reverted to a residential zone. However, Gailey indicated the city might be willing to amend the zoning depending on the needs of the developer.

In approving the sale of the armory, both councilors Linda Cohen and Melissa Linscott said what they are most excited about is seeing what proposals come down the line from the person or entity that ends up being the successful purchaser.

The armory, formerly occupied by the Maine National Guard, was built in 1941 in the Art-Deco style and its current assessed value is in the $400,000 range.

The city purchased the building in 2006 for $650,000 following the bankruptcy of the Museum of Glass and Ceramics, which never managed to move into the building.

In other action Monday, the City Council gave final approval to the new fiscal year combined city, school and county budget of $92.1 million, which represents a $3.2 million increase in total spending.

Voters approved the $44.8 million school budget in a referendum last week and on Monday the council agreed to municipal expenditures of $30.2 million for the fiscal year beginning on July 1. Under the approved budget taxpayers will see a 49-cent increase in the tax rate per $1,000 of valuation.

Rather than using a public bid process, the City Council has recently given the city manager authorization to sell the South Portland Armory.  


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