The Biddeford City Council has asked the Planning Board to review an application for a contract zone at 5 Points Shopping Center. The former Smitty’s location in the plaza has been discussed as a possible satellite site for potential new programs by Biddeford Regional Center of Technology. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — The Biddeford City Council has asked the Planning Board to review a proposed contract zone at 5 Points Shopping Center on Alfred Street to allow public and private schools there.

The Industrial 3 zone already allows universities and colleges.

The contract zone proposal, if approved by the Planning Board and then by the City Council, would allow schools like Biddeford Regional Center of Technology to locate programs in the building.

The Biddeford School Committee took an initial step last month that could lead to the establishment of a couple of hospitality-related programs. Biddeford Regional Center of Technology is eyeing a new two-year program in culinary arts and a one-year program in hospitality management. The School Committee endorsed the concept, the first step in the approval process by the Maine Department of Education, which provides funding for technical programs.

The programs would be offered off campus at a satellite site, because there is no room at the BRCOT, though Superintendent Jeremy Ray said the “where and when” were still being worked on.

City officials, the Biddeford School Department, and the owner of 5 Points Shopping Center, Tim Harrington, have discussed locating potential new Biddeford Regional Center of Technology programs into the vacant space most recently occupied by Smitty’s Cinema, according to a July memo to the council from Planning and Economic Development Director Mathew Eddy and City Planner Greg Tansley.

The City Council in July declined to amend the I-3 zone to allow public and private schools, and some councilors said they would rather see a contract zone specific to the 5 Points location.

“I’d like us to decide what we want I-3 to be,” said Councilor Amy Clearwater at the July meeting. The area is zoned for industry but also contains a mix of retail, restaurants, services, and other entities.

On Oct. 5, councilors voted to send the prospect of a contract zone to the Planning Board but amended the language of the order.

Clearwater and some other councilors demurred at the language of the proposed order which referenced, in part, the council’s “endorsement of the concept,” of a new contract zone, preferring “review” or something like it, instead.

Tansley acknowledged that the word “endorsement” might not the best term. He said the point the council was at is also the point whereby the applicant should know if a project is a “nonstarter” before spending additional funds.

After further discussion, the council voted to send the matter to the Planning Board for their review.

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