HALLOWELL — The state of Maine will keep 10 acres at the Stevens School complex instead of giving it to the local school district, a move that could spur development but goes against the wishes of city councilors and neighbors.

It’s the latest flashpoint in a debate about a parcel of open space abutting Pleasant Street that is wrapped up in the state’s latest effort to sell the largely vacant 64-acre campus off Winthrop Street, where Regional School Unit 2 leases its headquarters.

The district has long been discussing a land transfer with the state for the 8 acres on which its office stands and 14 acres of open space behind it. But the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services and RSU 2 have agreed to keep 10 acres of the open portion in the state’s hands, with department spokesman David Heidrich saying the move “may better fit with our plans” for marketing the rest of the campus, which he said “are undetermined at present.”

In February, Hallowell city councilors stood by an earlier endorsement of transferring all of that land to the district. That vote came after residents of Page and Pleasant streets expressed concern that development on the parcel could change their neighborhood. Sharon Treat, a former Democratic legislator from Pleasant Street, said water running downhill from the parcel already affects homes on the street, a problem that could worsen if land is paved.

“We’re just kind of sitting ducks here in the neighborhood,” she said. “It seems like we don’t have a lot of say over it.”

Under the deal’s current calculus, the school district would get a total of 12 acres. An appraisal of the agreed-upon parcel of land is set for this week, and both Heidrich and RSU 2 board chairwoman Dawn Gallagher, of Hallowell, said a final agreement might be reached by the end of summer. The district has been passive on whether it would take the full 14 acres. Gallagher said the school district — which consists of Hallowell, Farmingdale, Richmond, Dresden and Monmouth — was willing to take the land if the community wanted to keep it public, but “it doesn’t really matter to us” as long as RSU 2 gets its office and a suitable land buffer.

Councilor Alan Stearns, who lives on Pleasant Street, said the state’s move to keep 10 acres calls into question its willingness to collaborate with Hallowell and Mayor Mark Walker’s “ability to shape the state’s approach to this parcel.” But Heidrich said Hallowell “remains a valued stakeholder and will continue to be involved in the property’s disposition to the greatest extent practical.”

Walker, who has been working with state officials on a sale plan, said there will be “plenty of opportunities” for the city to oversee development on the land, and he said stormwater improvements should be included in any developer’s plans for the property, which the city would have to review.

“I don’t think they’re working against our interests at all,” the mayor said of the state.

The RSU deal is one part of the state’s plan to shed the complex, which it tried to sell to no avail in 2008. The last state offices at the complex haven’t left yet, and the property isn’t yet on the market.

Still, the local concerns have been an early hurdle. Stearns said the city has “acted as if this is a municipal discussion, when in fact the state has a very big role in what happens to the Stevens School,” adding that he’s “not convinced that the state is working with the mayor and the process the mayor has described to the city.”

However, Walker said some city and state interests are the same and that getting the property into the hands of a developer and on the city’s tax rolls should be a main goal.

“That’s not in the city of Hallowell’s interest, to let that complex sit there undeveloped,” he said. “We need to find somebody to take that over.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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