The Gorham Town Council Tuesday agreed to ask voters to purchase two parcels of land that would be developed for industrial use. Robert Lowell/American Journal

GORHAM — Gorham is on the threshold of stepping into the real estate business after the Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize a Nov. 5 referendum to buy 141 acres for industrial use.

If approved by voters, the town would borrow $5.9 million to buy and develop two parcels owned by M.P. Rines Trust. The purchase price would be $4 million, and the town would borrow up to another $1.9 million to pay related costs, including a survey, design, permitting approval and infrastructure.

The sites, one with 93 acres off Main Street and the other with 48 acres off Libby Avenue, are two of the last industrial parcels available in town and are served by public water and sewer. Both are near the Gorham Industrial Park.

“The goal is to get this land on the market,” Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Councilors also authorized Paraschak to sign a purchase and sale agreement this month that calls for a $5,000 deposit. The deal hinges on voter approval in the referendum.

The Town Council voted Tuesday to approve a lease with Shaw Cherry Hill Farm so the public will have access to its three miles of trails and more. Robert Lowell/American Journal

Town Council Vice Chairwoman Suzanne Phillips said although it’s normally not in the town’s best interests to invest in real estate, this is a good opportunity.

“This is a win for the town,” Town Councilor Lee Pratt said.

The board also unanimously approved spending $25,000 to develop a concept plan for the parcels to show voters. A public hearing on the referendum has been set for Oct. 1.

In other action, the council voted 6-1 (Council Paul Smith opposed) to make the economic development director’s post a full time job. Tom Ellsworth is the town’s part time economic development director.

Smith advocated advertising the job publicly. “This is a new position,” he said.

But Town Council Chairman Benjamin Hartwell said under the town charter the council can’t interfere with Paraschak’s hiring process.

Also on Tuesday, the board authorized Paraschak to enter into a lease agreement with the Shaw Brothers Family Foundation for public use of Shaw Cherry Hill Farm off lower Main Street.

The lease allows the public to use more than three miles of trails, a parking area and entrance road and have walking access to the Presumpscot River. Hartwell said the Shaw foundation jumped through hoops to purchase the property from ecomaine.

“It’s a great project,” he said.

Also Tuesday, Norm Justice, facilities director for the School Department and a former Town Council chairman, objected to an agenda item that would have allowed the town to hire a third party to review cost estimates for a $2.8 million modular project to expand Narragansett school. Voters approved the project in June.

Justice, from the audience, called for a rule of order. Citing the town charter, he claimed the matter is a School Committee function.

“This order is out of order,” Justice said.

Paraschak said identifying savings is in the realm of the Town Council. Justice said a point of order is not debatable.

Hartwell did not agree with the point of order.

Smith said he wanted to see additional plans and questioned whether there was an effort to hide something.

Superintendent Heather Perry said the School Department is not hiding anything. “Nothing to hide at all,” Perry said.

The matter was resolved when the board approved 5-2 (councilors Jim Hager and Ron Shepard opposed) Phillips’ amended order that a third party estimate could be ordered in the future at the discretion of the council for any project spending taxpayer money before going to voters.

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