BELGRADE LAKES — The Planning Board on Thursday will discuss an application to remove one half of a 60-year-old building on Mill Stream.

It’s a controversial proposal that has mobilized some people to circulate a petition calling for the former marina to be spared. Thursday’s meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the Belgrade Center for All Seasons.

The Maine Lakes Resource Center has submitted a commercial development application to the Planning Board to raze a section of the building at 171 Main St., construct a wall to enclose the exposed rear of the remaining building, which houses the Belgrade Lakes post office, and grade and stabilize exposed soil temporarily until permanent measures can be applied in the spring.

The estimated cost of the project is $20,000, according to a project description prepared by Thayer Engineering Company. The description estimates construction will begin this month, with the bulk of the project completed in January.

Kathi Wall, the resource center’s executive director, said in October that a public forum would be held next summer so seasonal residents could weigh in on the plan. But that will no longer happen, she said.

Jan Partridge, owner of Balloons & Things, across the street from the building, has circulated a petition to save it. She said tourists come year after year to the village to experience a Maine summer tradition.

The garage-like portion to be removed was most recently home to a gift shop. The remaining portion of the building, connected by a small breezeway, will continue to house the post office.

“This is the first step to get a demolition approval of the garage,” Wall said. “It’s not a historic building. I don’t recall the last time it was a marina. In 1990 it was revamped for real estate offices. This is what we would like to do and I think we have up to a year after the planning board approves the plan.”

Wall said the vacant lot will be grassy space, not a gathering area or park. The same parking spaces will remain, she said. The demolition will open the view of the stream that connects Great Pond and Long Pond to Main Street, which also is Route 27. Space behind the post office could be renovated for retail space.

“It’s a pretty straightforward plan for removing that garage area,” she said. “I’ve gotten a couple of estimates. I may go out to bid for a third estimate. It may cost between $20,000 and $30,000.”

She said anyone who wants to talk to her about the proposal can call her at the Lakes Resource Center at 495-3617 or come speak to her in person.

Partridge said it’s a shame Wall won’t wait until summer.

“It’s too bad there won’t be more summer residents in town to voice their concern,” Partridge said. “Once this takes place, the fabric of the town will forever be changed.”

Earle Shettleworth Jr., director and state historic preservation officer, said the building is not considered officially historic. Buildings constructed after World War ll are not generally considered for the National Register of Historic Places, he said.

“But I think that buildings certainly do take on local significance for communities over time and certainly that is a consideration,” he said.

Wall said her group will continue to be sensitive to the needs of the community.

Peter Rushton, chairman of the Planning Board, said the board will not make a decision at the meeting.

“I want to make it clear to all of our citizens, especially in Belgrade, it’s an informational meeting,” Rushton said. “It’s only an overview from the applicant and we will not be making a decision that evening. We may do it at our next meeting.”

The Planning Board meets at 7 p.m. the first and third Thursday of the month at the Town Office.

“It’s a sensitive topic, there’s so many emotions about this type of project. There’s some in favor and some very much against it,” he said. “We want to make sure that we learn from past experiences and go forward with sensitivity and treat everybody with respect. We want to hear what they all have to say.”

In 2004, the building’s owner stopped allowing public use after 70 years of public dock access.

In 2009, the Belgrade Lakes Association joined with Colby College and the Belgrade Lakes Regional Conservation Association in a $1.5 million Docks to Doorways capital campaign — with help from a $450,000 challenge grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation — to restore public access. The plan included buying and renovating the building, repairing the docks and boathouse, and buying a lot down the street to turn into grassy space.

The plan eventually grew to include tearing down the building instead of refurbishing it, and the land several hundred yards south on Main Street originally slated for grassy space became home to the 3,500-square-foot Maine Lakes Resource Center, which opened last summer. Docks behind the center and the marina were reopened to the public in July.

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]

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