DAMARISCOTTA, Maine — The Damariscotta properties where a group of investors hoped to foster a major business and housing development will go to auction on Tuesday, July 22.
The properties, collectively known as Piper Common, encompass about 154 acres and front on Heater Road, Piper Mill Road, School Street and Valley Lane, with access to Muddy Pond, according to Tranzon Auction Properties.
Damariscotta Development LLC and Great Salt Bay Development LLC own the land. Glenn Flanders of Bowdoinham leads a group of investors that control the companies through a third entity, Piper Village Development LLC.
Frank and Barbara Roberts of Phippsburg belong to the group, which also has three silent partners, according to The Lincoln County News archives. The group bought the land in 2008 from the family of the late Damariscotta businessman Louis French.
The group had big plans for their investment.
Various diagrams and drawings by the developers show an entrance to the development at 417 Main St., where the developers planned to buy property from Chester Rice.
Inside the development, there was going to be a performing arts center and, in some plans, a village area with close-set, multistory buildings that would have storefronts on the first floor and apartments above — similar to downtown Damariscotta.
A business corridor would extend from the village area to Heater Road, with a small light manufacturing zone on Heater Road.
The majority of the land lies outside Damariscotta’s commercial zone, however, and regulations outside the zone prohibit the kind of development the group had in mind.
The possibility of zoning amendments to enable development in the area became a sparkplug for many public meetings regarding the future of the town.
Piper Village Development LLC worked with the town and its residents to develop a “form-based code” to govern the town’s commercial areas. Later, the developers pitched a much more limited proposal to alter the zoning for just a portion of their own property.
Both proposals had opponents, however, including members of the downtown business community, the neighboring Lincoln County Rifle Club, and residents uncomfortable with the ambiguity of the developers’ plans. The proposals were soundly defeated at the polls in 2011 and 2012.
A new owner would face the same barriers, despite the fact that Damariscotta’s 2014 comprehensive plan — like the 2002 comprehensive plan — designates the land as a “growth area” where the town wants and anticipates development.
The comprehensive plan places all of the land up for auction in either the future “business park” or “village expansion” areas.
Damariscotta voters would have to approve a zoning change to enable a business park in the area. A new owner could seek such a change or develop the property under current zoning.
“Someone could come in now and develop it as a residential area without any additional changes in the zoning law,” Damariscotta Town Manager Matt Lutkus said.
“I believe it’s one of the larger parcels that’s available” in Damariscotta, Lutkus said. “There is a portion of it that is wetlands, so there are some limitations to the parcel.”
The town does not have a position on what happens with the land, although officials like Lutkus continue to see a need for the economic development that was a major selling point for the Piper Village developers.
“I think that we need to expand our commercial tax base, but that it has to be done with a mind that we do not want to lose our rural culture, our rural environment,” Lutkus said. “I believe there has to be balance in any type of new development.”
Tranzon Auction Properties will auction the property online. The bidding will open at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 22, and close at 11 a.m. Thursday, July 24. For more information or to register to bid, visit www.tranzon.com.