Casco Grange Hall fate discussed

 

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — The fate of the Casco Grange Hall is not set in stone.

There are several options for handling the future of the building, which has structural issues that will only worsen. Those options will fall in the hands of voters at the Casco Town Meeting more than six months away. A town meeting vote is required because the Town of Casco owns the Grange Hall.

Currently, the Head Start Program leases the ground floor.

The Grange Hall has been a topic of discussion for the Casco Board of Selectmen since repairs such as a furnace replacement were put on the budget last spring.

The other renovations necessary to keep it from falling into utter disrepair are costly.

The options boil down to: The town could retain the building and spend money on repairs; the town could have the building razed and keep the greenspace; or the town could sell the home but the buyer could only rebuild a single-family unit.

Although some in the community like the idea of the Grange Hall being developed into a business, the lot does not support commercial development.

During a board meeting earlier this month, Selectman Mary Fernandes summed it up by reading the written recommendation provided to the board by Code Enforcement Officer Alex Sirois.

“I’ll just read the last paragraph for purposes of recording,” Fernandes began. “Zoning aside, the engineer’s inspection report is impossible to ignore. For any use of the existing building to continue, a serious amount of money will need to be spent on correcting the existing deficiencies. In my opinion, that plus the complicated size and location of the structure will likely make the lot very difficult to develop. The board should consider options such as retaining the property as greenspace or selling it to an abutter.”

Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said that Sirois was referring to the difficulty of getting a site plan review through with the planning board.

“The septic and well would follow the property,” he said, referring to easements granted by neighboring property-owners.

“Storm Water runoff — there is not enough on the property to deal with that and (there is) not enough room on the property for parking,” he said.

The lot would only be suitable for a single-family home because the septic system is not large enough for use as a multifamily home or business, Morton said.

“While Alex isn’t saying it isn’t possible, it would be very difficult, very difficult to make commercial use out of it, very difficult to get through site plan review,” he said.

Selectman Grant Plummer said “A teardown and re-do for a single family home is possible.”

Currently the front porch of the Grange Hall sits in the state’s right-of-way.

Morton agreed. But it would be an odd-shaped home with setbacks of 40 feet from Meadow Road. A potential buyer would have a narrow strip of 70 feet by 20 feet “to accommodate something,” Morton said.

Plummer said he preferred “to do our homework before offering it for sale.”

To some degree, purchasing the lot would be taking a chance, Morton said.

“For anyone to build on this, it would require a number of variances, all of which are uncertain. You are buying the hope of getting a variance,” he said.

Plummer listed off the options.

“Option one is to keep. Option two would be to sell,” he said. “I want to understand what we have for sale.”

“Option three is demolition and removal,” Plummer said, asking if the town has confirmed a cost to raze that building.

The selectmen requested more information about the Grange Hall, including what would be allowable for a future owner and how much demolition would cost.

The board meets again on Jan. 10.

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