NORTH YARMOUTH — A proposal to redevelop a 20-acre parcel of town-owned property is headed to voters in June, and the issue is dividing the town for the second year in a row.

Selectmen last month accepted a bid from A.H. Grover, a Cumberland construction firm, to develop the former North Yarmouth Memorial School.

Voters will decide June 14 whether to sell part of the land, accept insurance money and borrow roughly $500,000 to develop the school. The issue has divided those who see the Grover proposal as the best way forward and others who want a redevelopment plan with a wider scope. A public hearing on the vote will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the town office.

Grover proposes to demolish parts of the school and rebuild Wescustogo Hall, a community meeting place destroyed in a 2013 fire, reconstruct the school’s gymnasium for a new community center, renovate a baseball field and build a new multi-purpose athletic field. The company plans to build a 32-lot housing subdivision on half of the property it will buy from the town.

The A.H. Grover plan was one of two applications the town received in response to a request for proposals.

The project is estimated to cost more than $1.7 million. However, after selling the 10 acres, marketing sand and gravel underneath the housing site, and using more than $626,000 in insurance money from the Wescustogo fire, the cost to the town will be reduced to roughly $468,000, according to the Grover proposal.

Selectmen support the proposal, but some residents oppose the plan, arguing it breaks up a key piece of town property, may not fit into a broader plan for the North Yarmouth town center and will not move town offices to the site. Voters last year backed a citizen referendum to open the property to development proposals and rejected a competing ballot question sponsored by selectmen to sell the current town hall, move town offices to a redeveloped Memorial School and build a municipal sewer line to attract private development.

A group of citizens gathered nearly 300 signatures this year to put a measure on the ballot that would have repealed last year’s vote and kept town control of the entire North Yarmouth Memorial School property. However, selectmen voted not to put the question on the June ballot because it asked the town to vote again on an issue it decided last year, said Town Manager Rosemary Roy.

“It falls into how many times can we vote on the same thing and when does the board have finality over this decision,” she said.

Pam Ames, a resident and North Yarmouth budget committee member organizing against the proposal, said she wants the town to keep the entire school parcel, rebuild Wescustogo Hall and move town offices to the school property. The A.H. Grover proposal doesn’t fit the idea residents had for the property when they voted last year, she said.

Keeping the entire property, adjoining another 65-acre municipal property, consolidates public space and gives the town room to grow in the future, she said.

The site of the former town office could be sold for home lots to accommodate development, separating government from private housing and businesses, she said. Opponents of the proposal have started to agitate against it, and set up a Facebook group called “North Yarmouth can do better.”

“It’s not that we dislike anything about the proposal; we just think there are more appropriate lots in the center of town that are being sold for houses,” Ames said.

“We put houses on house lots and keep town-owned land for town purposes. For me it is pretty much that simple,” she said.

 


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