FREEDOM — Residents will be asked at the annual Town Meeting on Saturday to change part of an ordinance and zoning map to allow renovation of a former grist mill at the end of Freedom Pond.

The project to refurbish the historic building, generate electricity at the site, and draw in two commercial tenants has been in the works for five years, potential owner Tony Grassi, of Camden, said.

If residents vote to change the town rules as they apply to the mill’s location, he said he plans to purchase the mill at the end of March, start renovations April 1 and finish by the end of the year. Compass Light Productions, in Camden, plans to make a documentary about the venture.

Residents will vote on a 2012 budget that requires less to be raised in taxes than last year, First Selectman Ron Price said. Last year’s budget was $1,148,267, compared to this year’s proposed budget of $1,024,761.

They will also take a non-binding vote on corporate personhood and decide whether to enact the town’s first comprehensive plan.

There is one contested race in elections Friday. Incumbent Clint Spaulding is facing Frances Silenzi-Walker for a three year term on the board of selectmen.

The town meeting will start at 10 a.m. Saturday, at the Dirigo Grange Hall. Elections will be from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the Town Office.

At town meeting, residents will be asked to amend part of the shoreland zoning ordinance to exempt small industrial operations in a certain zone from the current requirements pertaining to large industrial operations. And they will be asked to change the shoreland zoning map to include the mill site in a limited commercial zone.

The changes will affect about half a mile, Code Enforcement Officer Dave Schofield said.

The structure was built in 1818 as a grist mill, and in 1892 it became a wood turning mill, Schofield said. It remained as a wood turning mill until 1967 and has been dormant ever since.

The building is in disrepair now and fixing it is a major project, Schofield said. Whether the project happens will depend on the votes at town meeting.

Grassi said he plans to install a penstock pipe, which will run from the nearby stream into the basement of the mill, powering a turbine that will generate electricity.

He will bring the inside of the building up to code and look for commercial tenants that could use the green power, he said.

He plans to repair the foundation and exterior and to install a passage on the dam for the American eel, which migrates through the area.

“This is a place where you could actually generate power and have no negative environmental consequences,” he said.

“This is something that somebody ought to do before it falls into the river.”

While he does not own the property, he has an option to buy and will purchase it if residents agree to the changes to town rules.

He said the work would be completed by two primary contractors, Cold Mountain Builders in Belfast and Preservation Timber Framing in Berwick.

Residents will also vote whether to accept a comprehensive plan.

A local committee has developed the 103-page plan during the last couple years, guided by an opinion survey and public presentations and meetings.

The plan serves as a blueprint for the next 10 years of development in town and helps in being competitive for state grants, Price said.

It doesn’t tell landowners what they can and can’t do with their land, he said. Rather, it sets priorities for future development.

Some goals include promoting affordable, decent housing; facilitating economic development; improving access to transportation; safeguarding farmland; protecting waterways and forests; and increasing the availability of outdoor recreation.

After a petition request to selectmen, residents will vote Saturday whether to ask President Barack Obama and Maine’s congressional delegates to amend the U.S. Constitution to declare that corporations do not have the same rights as people.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]

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