WATERVILLE — The Planning Board later this month will consider recommending to the City Council whether to rezone a former convent on Western Avenue so it can be turned into 28 apartments for low-income seniors, as councilors Tuesday night voted unanimously to refer the matter to planners.

The Waterville Housing Authority has an option to buy the 5-acre parcel off Western and Chase avenues, according to Joe Ponzetti of Housing Investment Fund, which is partnering with the local Housing Authority on the project.

Ponzetti told councilors that Housing Investment raises tax credits and brings the equity to the deal.

“I’m working with Waterville Housing Authority to make this happen in its tax credits, and Maine State Housing administers tax credits for the state,” Ponzetti said. “It’s a competitive process; it’s a complicated process. This will take several months.”

“Is the tax credits because it’s senior housing?” asked Councilor Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6.

“It’s tax credits because it’s low-income (housing),” Ponzetti replied.

Some neighbors of the former convent asked questions about the project, and Council Chairman John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, said he thought the Planning Board would invite local residents to speak at its meeting, to be held at 7 p.m. June 27 in the council chambers.

City Manager Michael Roy said the property now is tax-exempt but it will be taxable if the property changes hands.

Meanwhile, Ponzetti, who attended the meeting with Nate Smart, property manager for the local Housing Authority, said those planning for the project will apply for historic tax credits. He said there will be no changes made to the outside of the building as part of the plan.

“There is a cathedral inside the building and it’s marvelous,” he said, adding that the Housing Authority wants to ensure it remains intact.

“The way the building looks today is the way it will look forever,” he said.

Roy noted that the council’s move to refer the matter to the planning board for recommendation on whether to re-zone the property from Institutional to Residential-A was a very preliminary step in the process.

Once the Planning Board makes a recommendation, the zoning issue will go back to the council for a vote, as the council makes the final decision on zone changes. Any permits for construction must go before the Planning Board, Roy said.

The building is located at 172 Western Ave., behind Mount Merici School. Colby College leased the large brick building for use as a dormitory several years ago.

The building housed nuns from the Ursuline order for decades. The Ursulines founded the Mount Merici Convent and Academy at the site in 1912.

In other matters, the council appointed Scott Fortin to the Planning Board to fill a vacancy created when Scott Workman moved out of the city. His term will expire in 2018.

Fortin said he will have lived in Waterville two years next month and is a 15-year licensed real estate appraiser who covers all of Kennebec County and deals with properties in Waterville. The former Augusta resident lived in Belgrade about 10 years before moving to Waterville, he said. Fortin said he had been looking for something to get involved in; Mayor Nick Isgro said he reached out to him and Isgro appointed him to the board. The appointment became final with the council’s 7-0 vote to confirm Fortin.

Councilors voted 7-0 to vacate part of Lafayette Street considered a paper street so abutters Brian and Linda Dutil can combine lots on opposite sides of the paper street. Roy explained that a paper street is a street drawn on paper and shown on development plans but never constructed.

The council voted to sell 9 Abbott St. to its former owner for $8,480. The city took the property in February for nonpayment of taxes. Councilors also voted to sell another tax-acquired property at 5 Kimball St. to a low bidder, Todd DeBlois, for $12,103.

Councilor Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, asked the council to thank South End resident Paula Raymond because she has been volunteering her time to plant flowers and plants in traffic islands in the city. She received a round of applause for her work.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, thanked all those involved in downtown revitalization meetings, including Roy, Isgro and others. The final meeting was held Monday at Hathaway Creative Center.

“Businesses want to feel valued and want to be included,” Mayhew said. “I believe we hit a grand slam on this agenda.”

Roy reminded those present that on June 14, another budget review meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the council chambers. The council’s first vote on the proposed 2016-17 budget will be June 21, he said. Two voted are needed to finalize it.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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