North Yarmouth rethinks town center development in wake of fire

The Westcustogo Grange Hall, where North Yarmouth residents held town meeting, weddings, Boy Scout meetings and aerobics, burned to the ground in August.
Courtesy of Michael Estes
The Westcustogo Grange Hall, where North Yarmouth residents held town meeting, weddings, Boy Scout meetings and aerobics, burned to the ground in August.
By Alex Lear, The Forecaster
Posted Dec. 09, 2013, at 6:49 p.m.

NORTH YARMOUTH, Maine — The Board of Selectmen next week will take up a town-center development proposal that has been largely reshaped in the wake of the Aug. 29 Wescustogo Hall fire.

The proposal includes construction of a structure that could host the same kinds of functions previously held at Wescustogo.

The North Yarmouth Economic Development and Sustainability Committee has been working on proposals for municipal properties around the center of town. The first phase received Town Meeting approval in June, when voters OK’d spending more than $150,000 for installation of a sidewalk from the fire barn to Wescustogo Hall, along with a path from the hall to an approximately 70-foot bridge that would span Toddy Brook ravine.

A trail was to lead from there to Town Hall, tying both sides of the town property together with pedestrian access. The thinning of trees near Town Hall also was planned to improve views of that structure from the road.

But the fire that destroyed the 1950s-era former Grange hall on Walnut Hill Road forced the committee to re-evaluate its plan. The panel presented five options at an Oct. 17 forum at North Yarmouth Memorial School, and afterward considered feedback for a recommendation for the town.

The bridge is not part of the committee’s new proposal, which goes to the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Dec. 17, although the sidewalk and tree work are included.

The panel calls for the now-vacant Wescustogo Hall lot to be offered to the town’s historical society, so that the group could either move the Old Town House there from Route 9, and use it for storage and meetings, or raise funds to construct a new building on the site.

Insurance proceeds from Wescustogo Hall should be used to build a new structure, either attached to or near Town Hall, the proposal says. It would function in the same way as Wescustogo Hall, where events like elections, meetings and weddings were held.

Committee member David Perkins noted that his group also recommends the town “move aggressively with privatizing [North Yarmouth Memorial School] once we own it, and to look for the best developer possible to work with that.”

Senior housing is one option that has been suggested for the school, built in 1976, which is due to close next June. Its students will be moved to an expanded Greely Middle School in Cumberland.

Selectmen will vote at a later time on accepting the school, which the School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors voted Dec. 2 to transfer to the town.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/12/09/news/portland/north-yarmouth-rethinks-town-center-development-in-wake-of-fire/ printed on October 22, 2014