Red tape could slow Memorial School redevelopment

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

The red tape rules that come with federal Brownfields cleanup money will likely delay Bridgton’s redevelopment of the former Memorial School property until 2015 or later, despite the willingness of all parties to work together.

The SAD 61 School District is willing to transfer ownership of the vacant school at the end of Depot Street to the town, which it is now using for storage. And the Bridgton Economic Development Corporation is also willing to take over ownership from the town, in order to act as a third party as is required under the Brownfields funding guidelines.

Yet it’s now looking like it won’t be until 2015 that all those requirements, and more, will be met, Anne Krieg, director of planning, economic and community development, told selectmen Tuesday.

“The one thing I get stopped on the street about the most is the Memorial School,” she said, noting that interest in redevelopment of the site has been keen for years, and is among one of the top priorities for both selectmen and the BEDC as a work project.

Krieg said it will also be necessary to hold an August meeting with the Greater Portland Council of governments, the entity overseeing Brownfields funding, to outline all the roles each party will play. Then, it will be necessary to hold a charette with the public, in September or October, to get consensus on what future use should be made of the site. A public forum will follow the charette, with a final plan ready for the selectmen to review by this December.

That plan will go to the voters in June of 2014, along with separate articles to authorize the transfers of ownership. It is only afterward that the town will be able to apply for the grant cleanup funds, Krieg said, because the rules require the site to be under ownership of a third party before the grant application can be submitted, she explained.

“It’s really important, before we even apply for any funds, that the third party has to be the owner,” Krieg said.

One of the unfortunate consequences of the delay until next year is that the town will need to re-do the site assessment that has already been completed. That assessment found no significant areas of ground contamination from the Narrow Gauge Railroad terminal that predated the construction of the Memorial School, which once served as the high school.

Krieg said the Environmental Protection Agency will not accept as valid a site assessment that is over six months old. Looking on the bright side, she said, the replication of the work will go much quicker the second time around, and likely cost less.

“The EPA is very clear that these Brownfields monies are not just for cleanup, they’re for cleanup for redevelopment,” she said.

Selectman Paul Hoyt wondered what assurances the town would have that its plan would be carried out as presented by the town, once the BEDC becomes the official owner of the property. BEDC Board member Mark Lopez said such assurances could be written into the transfer of ownership as deed restrictions, and Hoyt replied that he would be satisfied with that.

 

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