Warren asks voters to OK former school sale to help settle lawsuit

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff
Posted Oct. 07, 2013, at 6:02 p.m.

WARREN, Maine — The town is recommending that the former Warren Primary School building be auctioned and that the proceeds of that sale be split with a resident who is suing the town over its failure to sell the property to him.

The town posted the proposed settlement on its website Monday following a selectmen meeting last week. The deal would end a lawsuit brought by Robert Emery Jr. and his company Vixen Land Holdings LLC against the town after it reneged on selling the property to him in 2010 when it became public that he planned to lease the site for a methadone clinic.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this year in Knox County Superior Court, is on hold pending the outcome of the proposed settlement. The two sides agreed on Oct. 1 to put the case on hold, according to court records.

No date for the special town meeting to vote on the settlement has been scheduled, said interim Town Manager Glenn Aho.

The deal calls for the property — which consists of a 9,600-square-foot brick building and 5.5 acres — to be sold to the highest bidder at an auction and for Emery to receive 60 percent of the proceeds. The town would receive 40 percent of the proceeds.

If the voters reject the settlement, the lawsuit could proceed.

One of the conditions of the settlement is that nothing said by residents at the town meeting could be used in the pending lawsuit if the deal is rejected.

The school was built in 1963 and was originally Warren High School. The building became an elementary school after Medomak Valley High School opened in 1968. School Administrative District 40 turned the property over to the town in 2007 when it no longer was using it.

At a special town meeting in September 2013, residents overwhelmingly approved spending $60,000 to demolish the former school building. That demolition, however, was put on hold at the advice of the town’s attorney in response to Emery’s lawsuit.

Another lawsuit by CRC Health Group, which originally planned to lease the property from Emery, remains active in U.S. District Court. No trial date has been scheduled on that case in which CRC claims the town has discriminated against it because it wanted to offer a clinic to treat opiate addicts.

Warren had agreed to a settlement with CRC in 2011 but the California-based company asked for the case to be put back on the schedule after months of planning board review on CRC’s newer proposal to establish the methadone clinic at the intersection of Route 1 and Short Street. The Warren Planning Board approved the project last year but neighbors to the proposed clinic filed an appeal before the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. That appeal was dropped when CRC withdrew its application to locate a clinic in Warren. The company, however, is still pursuing its lawsuit against the town.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/10/07/news/midcoast/warren-asks-voters-to-ok-former-school-sale-to-help-settle-lawsuit/ printed on December 22, 2014