GRAY — The future of historic Stimson Hall is uncertain as its owner and the town debate what uses are allowed there.

Will Boyle, co-owner of Loon Island, a Cumberland real estate holding company, purchased the building, located at the start of Route 26 in downtown Gray, from the Liberty Foundation for $200,000 in October. The historic hall, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1900 but has been vacant for years and rapidly deteriorated.

Due to black mold, Boyle said, “Stimson has less than a year left now.”

He would like to preserve the historic site and turn it into a center for business incubation, innovation, cultural arts and family activities. Loon Island has also purchased the abutting property, 13-17 Main St., as well as 59-61 Portland Road, to help with the redevelopment of the downtown. Those plans have been stalled over questions about what uses are allowed at Stimson.

Boyle said that since the building has had a variety of uses in the past, he need not submit an application to the Planning Board requesting a change of use.

Town Planner Kathy Tombarelli, however, said that “the historic use of Stimson Hall has been municipal in nature. Whatever occurred in that structure was under the municipal umbrella.

As a result, Boyle’s new proposed uses must be reviewed and approved by the Planning Board. 

In an interview in October, Community Development Director Doug Webster said, “From a zoning perspective, (Stimson is) a structure that has been vacant for quite a few years and a new use is being proposed. And even though it’s a use that it has historically been used for, that was many years ago.” 

Boyle said he met with town officials in October and was told by Tombarelli that he would be given a letter from the town approving all of the hall’s previous uses. He said she later emailed him and said the town would not be issuing such a letter.

If there’s no established uses, then that means I have to have plans done and go in front of the Planning Board to have uses established,” Boyle said. “I’m not willing to spend that money or effort.”

Tombarelli did not comment on that October meeting but said, “It would be highly unusual for a town code enforcement officer to issue a letter giving blanket approval for historical uses. That’s very unlikely.”

She said the planning office has not received any applications from Boyle and “we need something in writing to move forward. We’re still looking forward to working with him. We’re waiting for him to make the next move.”

“Until I get that approval letter from the town, I’m not doing a thing,” Boyle said. 

The project has also been stalled since the property is being held in escrow over back taxes owed on it.

In the meantime, Boyle is working on amassing a group of residents to promote positive change in the village center. The group of 17 members has not met yet, but Boyle said the “goal with the group is to promote positive change and create a good healthy business atmosphere in the town.”

He feels Gray has missed many business opportunities and hopes that the group can be a public forum for residents to speak about what they would like to see in town.

Regarding his plan for Stimson Hall, he said he is “fine with jumping through hoops and spending money if it’s a means to an end.” But at this point, he said, “I’m very busy. I have a lot of projects in different towns. (The town doesn’t) want to lift a finger to help at all.” 

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