The Worumbo Mill building in Lisbon is demolished in 2016. The town bought nearly four acres at the former textile mill in June 2019, leading to Wednesday’s meeting to present four options for redeveloping the site. Times Record file photo

The redevelopment options proposed for the former Worumbo Mill site in Lisbon Falls have provoked a backlash from some local businesses.

Business owners near the property have started a petition against the development options because they feel that the town consultant and the economic development office are pushing very hard for residential properties on the site.

“We did not want to see a residential housing option there for many reasons,” said Lorelie Hilliker, owner of 207 Edibles. “I had offered to donate the cost of a stage to put out there. They did not offer any options of what revenue that might generate, and they only went with what they wanted or nothing.”

Hilliker said a couple of business owners want nothing on that site but parks.

Earlier this month, the town’s consultant presented four possibilities for the site, with housing and business options among possible uses.

Hilliker feels that many people in the town are under the misconception that the property taxes will go down if a residential unit comes up at the site. However, she said the town had created a process whereby the property tax rate would freeze for 20-30 years, and any money that comes from additional development goes into a specific fund.


“I think in every community, residential is something that is going to expand over time,” said Fern Larochelle, another business owner. “I don’t think there is something we can control, but as a community, it is our due diligence to control where it is being spread and how it affects the rest of the community.”

However, most residents who participated in a recent market survey said they lacked good housing options within the town and are looking for alternatives. Lisbon Economic and Development Director Brett Richardson said there is a need for housing in Lisbon.

“There is a need for housing in the region, and there is a need for housing throughout the state,” said Richardson. “Lisbon in 2020 cracked the top tenant, single-family home sales because people who were looking for a place to live and still be able to commute to the large employment centers. They are now as far out as Lisbon and that is not changing unless we build more housing.”

Richardson said that creating a recreational amenity on the site would not generate tax revenue as per the market analysis findings.

“It isn’t going to solve some of the big challenges in the community,” said Richardson. “Whereas, with housing, we could find a developer who is willing to build housing there, under the right conditions that would allow the community to generate some tax revenue.”

Richardson said as per the market analysis findings, a two-bedroom apartment in the town costs approximately $1,200- $1,500 per month, excluding the utilities.

An average household pays $942 per month in rent or mortgage in the town, according to the market analysis findings.

“We are looking at 1,000-1,5000-square-foot units with an office space at the Worumbo site, especially for people who are interested in moving from their current home into a smaller home,” said Richardson. “Folks wanted a place where they can live, work and play in one location.”

On Feb. 1, the town’s Economic Development Committee members will present the four redevelopment options to the town council for review.

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