BREWER, Maine — Public works crews will begin tearing down the dilapidated New Stable Inn on Wilson Street today, and firefighters from the region will burn the structure this weekend in a training exercise.
In a 3-2 vote, City Council members on Tuesday endorsed an agreement to forgive a portion of the unpaid taxes and utility bills owed by the former inn owner, who defaulted on his mortgage in mid-February.
Councilors Joseph Ferris and Mayor Arthur “Archie” Verow both stated they did not like forgiving $45,000 of the more than $76,000 in back taxes and unpaid utility bills owed by former owner Farhat Cheema of Massachusetts.
“I oppose the extent that we’re forgiving taxes,” Ferris said. “I would have agreed to some lesser amount.”
Other councilors who supported the measure said the move was designed to get rid of the damaged building to attract a new tax-producing entity for the site.
“I see this as an opportunity … to turn that site into something we’ll be proud of down the road,” Councilor Jerry Goss said.
“I see this as an investment,” Councilor Manley DeBeck said. “That building has been an eyesore for a long time. After Sunday that big old eyesore is going to be gone.”
Without the agreement, “that Stable Inn may last there for another 50 years,” warned Councilor Larry Doughty before the vote.
The 69-room inn closed on Jan. 25 after high winds ripped off a portion of its roof. City officials ordered it evacuated until the damage was repaired. Three weeks later, Cheema failed to pay his mortgage, and Paul Means of Means Investment Co. of Bangor ended up holding the note.
Means was at the meeting with his son, Zach Means, and told the council that the debt was Cheema’s.
“This kind of was dropped in my lap and I have to obviously make the best of it,” he said, adding that the deteriorated building is an embarrassment. “This was a landmark at one time when it was built in the ’60s.”
The property now is listed by Means under Twin City Rodeways Inc.
Officials from the city and Twin City Rodeways have agreed to team up to move the demolition process forward and have agreed to split the costs of relocating two utility poles and removing debris and ash that remain after the fire training is complete.
“It is in the best interest of the city to facilitate the removal of the building,” the order states. “The property is located in an extremely desirable area of the city for development and growth purposes, which has a significant amount of traffic exposure.”
“In exchange for the city’s forgiveness [of the unpaid taxes and utility bills] TCR agrees to use its best efforts to actively market and sell the property,” the order states.
The remaining amount of back taxes that is owed to the city, approximately $31,000, will be paid by Means within six months, the order states.
During the back-and-forth before the vote, Verow stated twice that the city is making a lot of concessions.
“I really don’t see any agreements from the city that that is not going to be a vacant lot” a year from now, he said.
Means responded by saying his goal is to sell the property to a developer as soon as possible.
“There are no guarantees,” he said. “At some point, because of its location, that has got to be one of the most attractive pieces of land on Wilson Street. Eventually, this economy is going to turn around,” and investors will surface. “I understand the councilor’s reluctance.”
Ferris and Verow voted against the measure, and DeBeck, Doughty and Goss endorsed it.