Orono council votes to hasten Webster Mill demolition

Posted Aug. 10, 2011, at 9:34 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — The Town Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to allow the developer of the former Webster Mill site to demolish the building before the company takes over the title to the property.

The once-vibrant Webster Mill is now a decrepit building with boarded windows and a partially collapsed roof — an eyesore and a safety hazard, councilors said.

“It would be great to get this down and make it a much safer site,” said Councilor Tom Spitz.

Town Planner Evan Richert called the former mill “a problem site.” Police and fire crews have responded to dozens of calls at the building, Richert said. The property is a frequent stop on police patrols to make sure no one is inside the unstable structure.

Under the town’s original agreement with Developers Collaborative, the company that will tear down the mill to make room for a new condominium complex at the confluence of the Penobscot and Stillwater rivers, demolition would have waited until the title switched hands at the end of this year or in the spring of 2012.

The town was surprised when Developers Collaborative for permission to demolish the building much sooner — on Aug. 22.

“We were not expecting to see this happen so quickly,” said Town Manager Sophia Wilson. “But we’re very excited to see the project move forward.”

Richert said he expects the demolition to take about six weeks. Developers will grind up the mill debris and use them to fill the hole left by the building, according to Richert.

Some of the granite used in the original mill is likely to be salvaged and used on the new condominium site as a reminder of the mill’s history on the property, according to councilors.

Councilors said the Orono Village Association and others in town are planning a barbecue on the day of the demolition to commemorate the mill’s final day. The exact time and place have not yet been ironed out but should be announced in the next few days.

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