June 18, 2018
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Saco seeks lower price to buy church, tear it down to create parking lot

By Liz Gotthelf, Journal Tribune

SACO, Maine — The city will try to negotiate a lower price before deciding whether to purchase the former Notre Dame de Lourdes church, rectory and parking lot.

The current purchase price is in the $399,000 to $419,000 range. The suggested plan would be to demolish the church to make way for more parking and to resell the rectory building as housing.

Councilor Philip Blood moved to table the decision to purchase the property, a move that the council approved. Blood and Councilor Eric Cote said they thought the price was “much too high.” Both councilors said there is a parking problem downtown, but it is a multi-faceted issue that needs more research.

“I don’t want to pay that kind of money,” Cote said.

The council heard from several residents who were not in favor of the proposal.

Many, like Joan Gilbert, said they didn’t think it was a good use of taxpayer money. She said she’s never had a problem finding a parking space in the downtown. She referenced a city newsletter from Nov. 2012 that stated that at any given time, more than 50 percent of parking spots were open.

“We don’t have a parking shortage in Saco, what we have is a dying Main Street,” she said.

Former state Rep. Don Pilon told the council not to “waste money on this,” because it isn’t going to benefit the residents. He referenced information from the city stating the greatest need for parking is in Pepperell Square. Pilon said if the city wants a parking lot, it should look for property closer to this area, such as a quarter-acre lot on Storer Street that was available for $139,000.

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