June 22, 2018
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Boards to debate price for Hampden Academy property

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

HAMPDEN, Maine — The Town Council will meet later this month with the RSU 22 board to negotiate a more acceptable price for the property now occupied by Hampden Academy, which will be empty when the new school opens next fall.

Maine Valuation Co. of Standish, the appraiser for the school board, put the fair market value of the 23-acre tract of land at approximately $1 million, but Northeast Building Consultants has pegged the cost of demolishing all buildings and structures on the site — except the historic 1843 Building, which was the original high school — at $1,184,899.

“I’m anxious to bring the council and school board to work collaboratively on a solution,” said Hampden Councilor and Mayor Janet Hughes, who stressed the council’s interest in acquiring the property.

“What we’re trying to do is not saddle the citizens with more of a tax burden and develop that property into more a town center type of development with a mix of commercial and community uses,” she said. “On the flip side, what the school is thinking is we have a million-dollar piece of property for $400,000, but after getting it buyer-ready, it’s at negative $184,899.”

The school board offered the council the land for a total price of $386,100 in October.

Hughes said there’s a chance the Skehan Center — which houses the gym that teams play basketball games in — may be salvageable.

“The school felt that Skehan may be of some use to the recreational center, but it does need a boiler and a new roof at some point,” Hughes said.

The two bodies likely will meet the week after Christmas, but an exact date hasn’t been agreed upon yet.

The council on Monday also set a tentative date for a joint meeting with the 20-member Citizens Comprehensive Plan Committee at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13. The committee has wrapped up its three-month review and revision of the town’s controversial 2010 comprehensive plan, which lays a legal framework for the town’s zoning and land use regulations.

“I was pleased with how Monday’s meeting went and pleasantly surprised with how little opposition there is to many of the revisions,” said Hughes. “I think the plan was good and there aren’t a lot of substantive changes that should imperil the plan’s overall vision.”

The citizens committee voted 15-1 last Thursday to accept the revisions and submit them to the council, which will have to forward them to the planning board. Councilor Thomas Brann made a motion to forward the revision report on to the planning board but since it wouldn’t be sent in time for the board’s December meeting, the council voted to schedule a meeting and go over the revisions beforehand.

Brann said there are three main steps left in the process of ratifying the comprehensive plan: continuing the legal process en route to adopting the plan, holding a joint public hearing with the citizens committee and the planning board, and instituting some form of regular review of the comprehensive plan by the council, either annually or every two to three years.

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