WATERVILLE — Colby College and the city have agreed on a $300,000 purchase price for the parcel of The Concourse parking lot that the college wants to use as the location of a dormitory for students, faculty and staff.

The City Council will vote on the sale of the city-owned property Tuesday. It requires two votes by the council, and only one can be taken Tuesday. The final vote would be taken Tuesday, Feb. 16.

“The city made Colby an offer and they accepted it,” City Manager Michael Roy said Friday. “They went through their own analysis of what they think the property is worth. It was within the range of what they felt was a fair price.”

Roy said the public is welcome to attend Tuesday’s meeting, to be held at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at The Center. “We’re more than happy to answer questions that people may have about what’s going on, not only on The Concourse, but other places as well,” Roy said.

The council Tuesday also will consider adopting a downtown revitalization strategy.

The city’s zoning rules prohibit residential uses on the first floor of downtown buildings, so the first floor of the college dormitory would have to house retail/commercial uses.

City Assessor Paul Castonguay said Friday that the city does not have information about value of part of the city-owned parking lot. He confirmed, however, that the city would tax the Colby dormitory building, because it would have commercial property on the first floor.

The college’s property is exempt from taxation because it’s a nonprofit organization, but the downtown building would have an independent owner.

“Their plan is to have somebody else build the building and own it, and that would make it, automatically, taxable,” he said. The city does not yet know who is going to own the dormitory building, according to Castonguay.

Colby officials hope to buy the 0.77-acre parcel in the northeast corner of The Concourse parking lot as part of ongoing efforts by the college and city to revitalize downtown, draw more people and business there and help strengthen existing businesses, expand arts and cultural offerings and spur economic development. Beautifying the downtown and improving the street-scape also are part of the plans.

Downtown revitalization efforts were launched last summer after six months of meetings involving city and Colby officials, business leaders, arts organizations and others. The group was supported by a team of architects, urban planners and economic development specialists.

The downtown revitalization strategy that the council will consider Tuesday spells out objectives that include increasing residential density downtown to stimulate economic activity, making Waterville a destination for the arts, shopping and other activities, improving the physical environment to foster long-term growth, connecting with area colleges for small business development, examining two-way traffic on Main Street, improving traffic flow, parking and connections to Hathaway Creative Center on Water Street, and more.

Colby has bought five vacant buildings downtown with plans to work with investors to renovate them. Ideas discussed for those buildings include a boutique hotel, retail businesses and arts-related functions.

The Concourse parcel Colby wants to buy is where the Waterville Downtown Farmers Market is held in warmer months. The lot there includes 90 parking spots, while the entire Concourse has about 600 parking spaces.

City officials have said that if Colby buys the property, the city would help the farmers market move to another suitable spot.

Councilors recently voted to authorize Roy, the city manager, to start negotiating with Colby to sell The Concourse space to the college. Roy said that before any big changes can be made downtown, including construction of buildings, the parking study must be done and a plan developed for any possible changes. Revitalization efforts, he said, are contingent on deciding what will occur with traffic and parking issues.

The city, Colby and state Department of Transportation recently hired Gorrill Palmer Consulting Engineers, based in Gray, to conduct a traffic study of the downtown area, which would include exploration of two-way traffic on Main Street. The $105,000 cost for the study is shared equally by the three entities.

In other matters Tuesday, the council will be asked to consider approving a recommendation by the Planning Board to approve an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance to rezone 345 Main St. from Commercial-C to Commercial-A to allow for a Taco Bell fast-food restaurant to be built there. The property is the site of a former Bank of America. The current property does not meet the building setback requirements and a zone change would reduce the setback and drive-thru parking space requirements.

The council also will consider referring to the Planning Board a request to rezone the College Quik Stop property at 288 West River Road from Residential-B to Commercial-A, to meet building setback requirements for a canopy and gasoline pumps. The Planning Board would review the request and send the matter back to councilors with a recommendation. The council makes the final decision on rezoning matters.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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