Mystery owner wins right to buy old school in Belfast with $220,000 bid

The Peirce School on Church Street in Belfast was put up for auction Wednesday, Aug. 28 by the Keenan Auction Co. A mystery owner purchased the place for $220,000.
The Peirce School on Church Street in Belfast was put up for auction Wednesday, Aug. 28 by the Keenan Auction Co. A mystery owner purchased the place for $220,000. Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 28, 2013, at 2:40 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 28, 2013, at 3:03 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — It took about 30 minutes Wednesday morning for the Peirce School to find a new owner — an anonymous bidder who bought the 11,000-square-foot property for $220,000.

The auction — which drew about 20 onlookers and participants — took place in one of the classrooms of the 1915 school.

“Normally, I’d say good morning, ladies and gentlemen, but I feel compelled to say ‘good morning, class,’” quipped auctioneer Stefan Keenan of the South Portland-based Keenan Auction Co., before starting the bidding.

He received no nibbles at $300,000, $275,000 or $250,000, but when the asking price dropped to $200,000, auction action began. Ultimately, a Belfast attorney made the winning bid for his client, but had no comment about what the unnamed client will do with the building.

The city values the property, which sits on 3/4 of an acre, at $311,000. The winning bidder will need to pay an additional $13,000 in back taxes owed to the city of Belfast, Keenan said. Previous owner William Ryan purchased the building from the city several years ago for $265,000, after he persuaded councilors that his plan to create a music school there was a good idea.

Ryan came back to the city council two years ago, telling officials that he was unable to continue his efforts to create a school or even maintain the brick building. He asked councillors to repurchase the building for the 2007 sale price, but they declined.

Whoever the new owner is, he or she will have to contend with the current zoning limitations for the building. According to Belfast City Planner Wayne Marshall, the school lies within the residential 1 zoning district, which means it can be used as a single-family house, a duplex, a school or some type of community center. It can be used as a professional office, but it must be occupied by the owner and be a single-practitioner office with no more than two full-time employees.

He said that the city has had some initial discussions about doing contract rezoning for the Peirce School and other properties that are similarly limited in use.

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