AUGUSTA — City officials are concerned there could be a rush to demolish buildings, in particular a nearly 200-year-old Green Street property, before a proposed new historic district is created.

So city councilors on Thursday will consider enacting a moratorium banning the demolition of historic buildings within the proposed new district for 180 days.

The moratorium was proposed in part in response to an application filed by property owner Motivational Services to demolish a building at 18 Green St. that city assessing records say was built in 1816.

The building is within the boundaries of the proposed new historic preservation district, which would be created by the proposed new Historic Preservation Ordinance. That proposal is currently under review by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and has not yet been approved by city councilors.

The proposed new Historic Preservation Ordinance would ban the demolition of buildings considered to be “contributing” to the historic district unless the property owner “can demonstrate that it cannot be renovated or reconstructed so as to earn an economic return on its value in its present location as determined by a qualified real estate appraiser.”

At-Large City Councilor Dale McCormick fears that the 18 Green St. property — once grand but now dilapidated — could be demolished and be replaced with a modern, unattractive new building before the new ordinance is in place.

“Yes, it has fallen into disrepair, but at what cost will come a new square, boxy, ugly-as-sin apartment building in a neighborhood filled with houses that are probably from 1890 to 1832?” McCormick said when she first raised the issue at a council meeting earlier this month. “It will be a loss to the city. We know, and can prove, that preserving our buildings and cultural heritage is important not only for the heart of a community but for the economic development of a community. And all we can do is delay the inevitable for 90 days. It’s a shame.”

The Historic Preservation Commission voted earlier this month to deem the building as potentially historic, which kicked in a 90-day delay period before the demolition permit sought by the owner will be issued. That delay period ends in early January, and the proposed new Historic Preservation Ordinance may not be enacted by then.

Mayor David Rollins said last week the Maine Historic Preservation Commission review of the city’s proposed new ordinance could take up to 60 days. Councilors may not take it back up for discussion and a vote until after the new year, and by then it may be too late for the property.

Councilors are scheduled Thursday to consider enacting a 180-day moratorium on the demolition of any building located within the proposed new historic district deemed to be potentially historic by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

“This is just to preserve the status quo until we see where the ordinance is going,” said Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti. “And sort of deter a rush to tear things down before the ordinance is worked through and enacted, out of fear the ordinance would prevent them from (demolishing a building). We just want to slow things down while (the ordinance) is under consideration.”

Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said Tuesday the proposed order creating the moratorium, if approved by councilors Thursday, would take effect in 10 days.

Motivational Services officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

At an Oct. 19 Augusta Historic Preservation Commission meeting, a representative of Motivational Services indicated they planned to propose a new building to provide housing for people with disabilities on the Green Street site. Motivational Services is a nonprofit corporation that assists adults recovering from mental illness in Kennebec County with housing, employment, education, care coordination and other needs.

The Green Street building has been vacant for several years but was previously used as housing. Robin Veilleux, facilities manager for Motivational Services, told the preservation commission that people were moved out of the building because of health and safety concerns, though the building was not officially declared to be unsafe. She told the commission the estimated cost to rehabilitate the building was not affordable.

McCormick, a carpenter and former head of the Maine State Housing Authority, said Motivational Services representatives said it could cost millions to repair the building, an assertion she disputes.

“I’ve happened to have been in that business,” she said at a Nov. 5 council meeting. “It would not cost millions. I’d say it’d cost less than building a new apartment building.”

Buildings not deemed historically significant, even those within the proposed new historic district, could still be demolished during the moratorium, according to Matt Nazar, the city’s development director.

Rollins said the city has adopted moratoriums before, so the move is not precedent-setting.

Councilors meet to consider adopting the moratorium Thursday. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to:

• Hear a presentation on a ceremony regarding World War I plaques at Cony High School;

• Consider entering into a “community covenant” showing the city’s commitment to supporting members of the military;

• Consider authorizing City Manager William Bridgeo to sell city-owned properties at 36 Oak St., 110 Northern Ave., 44 State St. and 4 Chase Ave., enter into an agreement with a real estate agent to help sell city-owned properties on Lone Indian Trail and at 323 Bolton Hill Road, and to sell city-owned property at 9 Patterson St. to an abutter.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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