2017-11-24 / Front Page

Town will sell public safety building

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


The town council decided last week to put the Scarborough Public Safety building on the market. The town manager will also have to put the property through the town’s real estate disposition policy, which states town groups, such as the parks and conservation land board, school department, town departments, historical society and sanitary district will have a chance to recommend potential public uses in lieu of sale. The public safety building committee, which planned for and designed the proposed facility, unanimously recommended selling the building. (Michael Kelley photo) The town council decided last week to put the Scarborough Public Safety building on the market. The town manager will also have to put the property through the town’s real estate disposition policy, which states town groups, such as the parks and conservation land board, school department, town departments, historical society and sanitary district will have a chance to recommend potential public uses in lieu of sale. The public safety building committee, which planned for and designed the proposed facility, unanimously recommended selling the building. (Michael Kelley photo) With voter approval of a new public safety building, the existing structure at 246 Route 1, which the fire department has called home for more than 50 years and the police department for nearly 30, will soon no longer be needed as a town resource.

While there had been some talk about retrofitting the building as a gathering space for the community – particularly senior citizens – the town council agreed last week that the best option is to sell the public safety property, and the 9 Fairfield Road, the town-owned abutting property to help pay for the construction of the new facility.

The Fairfield Road property, according to the assessing department, was purchased by the town for $131,000 in August 2012. The 3-bedroom house, built in 1962, has since been razed and is now used as extra parking for the public safety building. The two properties will be listed separately

“We are counting on the proceeds from the sale of this going towards construction,” Town Manager Tom Hall said. “We don’t know how long it will take to sell, but we thought it to be important to put in out there and start the process.”

The town is expecting to get at least $1.4 million for the properties and used that figure in the referendum question, which asked voters if they wanted to bond $19.5 million for the construction of a new public safety building. The cost of the estimated $21.5 million building will also be offset by $625,000 in revenue from the public safety building reserve account.

Hall said there was some talk amongst staff about the town putting out a request for proposals, a common practice municipalities do to gauge interest in a property or asset or service, but ultimately that idea was passed by.

“Staff is fairly comfortable that the underlining zoning will dictate what will happen there and we are comfortable with the permitted uses,” Hall said.

The public safety building is located in the Town and Village Center (TVC), a zone according to the zoning ordinance, that offers “a mix of retail, office, service, civic and residential uses in an environment conducive to both pedestrians and motorists.” Much of the land with frontage of Route 1 from the public safety building and the Interstate 295 connector is zoned TVC, as is a section along Route 1 in the Dunstan part of town.

The 9 Fairfield Road site is in the Residential 4 zone (R4), which could be used for single family and multi-family residences, as well as community buildings not operated for private gain, family day cares and municipal buildings. Uses such as nursing homes, home occupations, charitable institutions, day cares/nursery schools, boarding care and places of workshop are allowed by special exception.

Karen Martin, executive director of the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation, said commercial broker Roxanne Cole was brought in as part of the public safety building planning and design process and indicated there was indeed commercial interest in the current public safety site.

“It’s a fabulous location right in the heart of Oak Hill. I think there is a lot of commercial value at least in the property. I think there is some value in the building,” Martin said, adding its reuse value may be diminished due to some of the concerns Police Chief Robbie Moulton and Fire Chief B. Michael Thurlow have expressed regarding the cramped layout and inefficiency of the building.

Martin said the fa├žade of the fire house may have some value to a commercial developer who could, in turn, convert it into a restaurant, office or small retail establishment.

“There are a number of things that could go into that building, knowing that some of the building will be redone,” Martin said.

The idea, she said, is to put the properties on the market and “see what happens.”

SEDCO, she said, will team up with town officials to explain to interested developers what makes the property so attractive and help “create its story to pique interest.”

The property has been used by the Scarborough Fire Department for more than 50 years and been the home of the Scarborough Police Station since 1989.

Hall said, as of Nov. 17, he is working on an “exclusive listing agreement” to sell the property through Cole. A for sales sign will be placed on the property, Hall said, in the next few weeks.

Before the property can be sold, per the town’s Real Estate Disposition Policy, Hall has to check in with several community groups, including the Scarborough Parks and Conservation Land Board, municipal departments, school department, Scarborough Sanitary District and Scarborough Historical Society “for significance and potential public uses.” The Scarborough Community Land Bond has up to 60 days to make a recommendation back to the town council. As part of the policy, notices of “potential disposition” are sent to all abutting property owners.

Hall said as part of its discussions, the ad hoc public safety building complex committee looked into potential reuse of the public safety building and determined “outright sale is the highest and best use.”

“That doesn’t replace that disposition the disposition policy. I still have to go through those conversations,” Hall said. “I will do that concurrently with listing the property.”

Hall said in a perfect world, he would have gone through the real estate disposition policy first and then get the council’s OK to put the property for sale instead of the other way around.

In essence, the community has already approved the sale of the building in a way because the bond order that passed allowing the construction of a new public safety building had proceeds from the sale of the existing property lowering the amount the town needs to bond for the project.

“There may be some criticism, but I thought it was important to get the property listed and the process moving along,” Hall said.

Once cleared for sale and an interested buyer is found, the policy states “awards shall be to the highest and best bidder, considering such factors, where appropriate, as the value of the consideration offered, the use to which the property will be put after the sale, and the effect of such use on the Town. The Town Council shall reserve the right to accept or reject any or all bids.”

Hall said it could be years before the building is successfully sold.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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