A purchase option to buy nearly 22 acres at The Downs for a new Scarborough school has fallen though after The Downs required terms “unfavorable” to the town, according to Town Manager Tom Hall.

The Scarborough Town Council authorized a $7.2 million purchase option on Aug. 2. It set an Aug. 9 signing deadline so it would have time to vote on putting the purchase and the consolidated K-3 school project on the November ballot. Between the Aug. 2 approval and the deadline, however, The Downs requested additional terms and conditions. The purchase price still stands, but the council would have to approve any new terms to keep the purchase option alive.

“The failure of not coming to terms on the agreement is not for lack of effort,” Town Manager Tom Hall said in a prepared statement. “Both parties acted in good faith, the town simply cannot agree to unfavorable terms.”

Councilors will meet in an executive session on Wednesday, Aug. 16, to discuss the purchase option and its next steps. Final approval of any purchase option authorized by the council is up to voters.

The town announced that the deal didn’t move forward on Thursday, after The Southern Forecaster’s deadline for its Aug. 11 print edition.

Hall, who has been working on the purchase option with Downs developer Crossroad Holdings, could not be reached for comment Thursday.


The initial terms included rezoning 34 acres of Downs-owned land (nine of which overlap with the new school plot) and incorporating it into an existing tax increment financing district. The town would have been responsible for $3 million in road projects near the school, with The Downs contributing $6 million toward those road improvements.

“The impasse we have reached is unfortunate, but we need to protect the town and the project’s best interest,”  Council Chairperson Jon Anderson said in the town’s press release. “This setback doesn’t change the fact that there is still an urgent need for our schools and the Council will need to think about the best path forward for our community.”

The council fast-tracked the school project last year so it could go to voters this November. Most councilors at an Aug. 2 meeting said they are not sold on the current plan for a consolidated K-3 school to address overcrowding in the district or the site at The Downs, but they believe voters should decide. They voted 6-1, with Councilor Don Hamill against, to move forward with the land purchase.

“There are probably a dozen reasons people could pick apart why this isn’t the best deal, why it’s not the best location – they might not even be convinced that a consolidated school is the right answer,” Councilor Nick McGee. “Those are expressions that can be made at the polls, and I would say don’t ask me as a councilor to stop you from expressing how you feel about the project in its entirety.”

Councilor John Cloutier didn’t like the deal, either, he said, but it was the best solution on the table.

“It’s a horrible deal, I hate the deal,” he said at the Aug. 2 meeting. “I could give you a thousand reasons to vote ‘no’ for this thing, but I think in the big picture it’s the right time to fix the problems with our schools and this is the solution that can do it. This is the place for it, this is the right location.”


Scarborough’s schools have been overcrowded for decades, officials say, and modular classrooms have been added as Band-Aid fixes. The school district uses about 30 portable classrooms. Overcrowding solutions that have been debated include adding another K-2 school or building one consolidated K-3 school.

The new school would replace the Pleasant Hill, Blue Point and Eight Corners K-2 schools. It would also include the third grade, freeing Wentworth School, grades 3-5, to take on sixth graders and alleviate overcrowding at the middle school.

“My daughter graduated in 2009 from Scarborough schools and at that time there was overcrowding and modulars,” said Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina. “I hate to see us get to the point where the schools are just so down and out and can’t fit the kids and aren’t meeting our educational needs, that we’re actually going to look foolish as a town, to be frank about it.”

McGee emphasized that the council’s role in this scenario is to make sure a plan is ready to be voted on by the public – not to dictate the contents of that plan.

“The work from the building committee and the school board has been extraordinary up to this point … This is their No. 1 choice, this is their No. 1 location and this is what they want this community to pursue.”

The total cost of the proposed project will be presented to the council by its Sept. 6 meeting.

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