WATERVILLE — Whether the city should lease space in its parking lot on Front Street to Colby College for the 42-room boutique hotel the college plans to build at 9 Main St. will be a topic for discussion at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
The council that night will consider taking the first of two needed votes to approve leasing 42 spaces in the 60-space lot to Colby for 99 years at $1 a year, according to City Manager Michael Roy. Any sale or long-term lease of public property for longer than 10 years requires two votes, he said.
Consideration of leasing parking spaces to Colby in the Front Street lot comes during ongoing discussions by Colby, city and business leaders about how downtown revitalization efforts will impact parking downtown. A new Waterville Parking Study Committee has met twice so far to discuss parking issues and to try to develop a parking management strategy that would likely include parking enforcement rules and creating new parking areas as the city grows.
Some downtown business owners and residents have expressed concern about how parking will be affected as the downtown has more people working, living, shopping and eating there. Business owners, including Jill and Al Hodsdon of A.E. Hodsdon Engineering on Common Street, for instance, say their employees and others in their buildings use the Front Street lot for parking, and with fewer spaces available there, their options will shrink. Because they have clients and workers coming in and out of their business frequently during the day, it is not viable for them to park at Head of Falls where in winter the steps leading to that lot are icy and dangerous, they say.
Al Hodsdon is a member of the new parking study committee as are others who have said they want to ensure businesses that have existed in downtown for many years and made significant investments downtown are not adversely impacted by parking issues.
John Fortier, owner of State Farm Insurance on Silver Street and chairman of the parking committee, at a meeting Wednesday urged that the city “do no harm” in the revitalization process.
“We want to take care of those that are already here and that are really the heart and soul of the current downtown as it exists,” Fortier said.
He said it is important that any changes not detract from property values or investments of existing businesses.
Tuesday’s meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at The Center and will be preceded by a 6:45 public hearing to discuss whether to approve an amendment to the existing downtown tax increment financing district that would remove 150 Main St. from that TIF district.
Councilors recently approved a TIF for a new $25 million residential-retail building for Colby College at 150 Main St., and that property must be removed from the existing TIF district, according to Roy. After the public hearing, the council will consider voting to approve that TIF amendment.
Colby is investing more than $45 million in the downtown with projects including the construction of the boutique hotel and restaurant at 9 Main St. on the lot where the former Levine’s clothing store was located; the residential complex for 200 Colby students and staff at 150 Main St. on the northeast tip of The Concourse, which will house retail space on the ground floor; and renovation of the former Hains building at 173 Main St., which will house retail on the ground floor and employees of CGI Group on upper floors.
Roy said Friday that the boutique hotel, Colby residential-retail complex and Hains renovations are three critical pieces to revitalization strategy and will present huge new value and result in more property taxes. The hotel, he said, is expected to employ 45 people and will need the 42 parking spaces on Front Street, just behind where the hotel will be built.
“We’ve got to find a way to make it happen,” he said.
Roy said the city has a similar $1 a year lease with Hathaway Creative Center for city-owned parking on Water Street.
Tuesday’s council meeting is one of five city meetings to be held between Monday and Wednesday this week.
A Planning Board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday in the information technology room on the first floor of City Hall near the mayor’s office. At that meeting Sanderson Development LLC will request revisions to a previously approved site plan so it can build a 6,384-square-foot addition to Pine Tree Mall at 369 Main St. across the street from Elm Plaza.
Also at 7 p.m. Monday, the City Council will meet with the Waterville Board of Education in the council chambers to discuss municipal-school budgets for 2017-18. School Superintendent Eric Haley is expected to present city officials and councilors with initial requests for funding from various schools and departments.
The parking study committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the council chambers to discuss a parking management and enforcement strategy for downtown, and then at 6 p.m., the Waterville Board of Education will host a community educational forum in Trask Auditorium at Waterville Senior High School to help the public understand how budgets are developed and what the money is used for in schools.
Amy Calder — 861-9247