HALLOWELL — The Planning Board held a special meeting to discuss proposed ordinances changes connected to the Stevens School property Thursday at City Hall. The board was expected to make a recommendation to the City Council about the proposed changes, but after more than four hours of discussion and public comment, it hadn’t done so yet.

Morrill, of Grand View Log and Timber Frames in Winthrop, paid $215,000 in April for the 54-acre property, which the state had marketed for a decade. He sees a property containing a mix of affordable senior housing, residential and open space, retail space and office space.

Mayor Mark Walker said after the sale that the council would have to change some ordinances in connection with any redevelopment, and Morrill has pushed for these changes to happen quickly so that he can market the property to other potential developers and tenants.

One of the two proposed ordinance changes would add a residential component to Section 9-388. Morrill, the developer of the Hallowell Overlook neighborhood, has spoken many times about his vision of having affordable senior housing and residential space at Stevens School.

Morrill’s attorney, Tom Federle, spoke about how the ordinance changes would allow Morrill to begin searching for tenants for several historic buildings, which Federle said was Morrill’s focus.

“The worst thing for old historic buildings is to be vacant,” Federle said. “They need to be cared for, and Matt has tenants that want to move into some of the historic buildings.”

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Federle also said there are fundamental issues with the infrastructure within the complex that Morrill needs to fix before he would be able to get tenants into buildings or move forward with a master plan.

“We think this is a modest first step that allows Matt to keep going,” Federle said. “There’s a lot of attention on this now, and Matt wants to build on it.”

Much of the public opposition to the ordinance centered on people who have wondered why the city is changing ordinances, some of which have been on the books for a while, for just one developer. Though nobody in attendance brought up that subject during the public hearing, people did speak about the requirement of a master plan.

Federle said the ordinance changes proposed would allow Morrill to move forward with marketing the existing buildings to potential tenants before submitting a master plan.

But Morrill sees his purchase of the property and his master plan for it, as a huge investment in Hallowell and one that would provide the city with much-needed tax revenue now that the property is privately owned.

Stevens School, which opened in the late 1870s as a school for wayward girls, needs major infrastructure improvements to its roads and sewers, and Morrill has asked that the city pay for it, a cost estimated to be at least $1 million. Morrill said the city would take over ownership of the roads and maintenance associated with them.

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Morrill hosted a site walk for more than two dozen people Monday afternoon to give people a greater and clearer picture of his vision for the campus. The group toured three buildings, including one is severe disrepair, and had a question-and-answer session about Morrill’s ideas for the property.

The Planning Board meeting was moved upstairs to the City Hall Auditorium in anticipation of a crowd too big for the council chambers. However, a large portion of the audience was city councilors and other city officials; there were only 12 people from the general public at the meeting.

Before the Planning Board meeting, the City Council held a brief special meeting to appoint an acting code enforcement officer and a new city clerk.

Richard Dolby was named the acting code enforcement officer for a two-days-per week position, replacing Maureen AuCoin, who left the position last month after more than six years. Walker said Dolby does not want the permanent position, so City Manager Nate Rudy will conduct a search for a permanent part-time code enforcement officer.

Dolby spent several years as a code enforcement officer for Augusta. He previously served as an interim code enforcement officer in Gardiner, working under Rudy.

Longtime City Clerk Deanna Mosher Hallett was replaced by Dianne Polky, who has been Hallowell’s deputy city clerk for the last 17 years. Hallett was the city clerk for more than 30 years and had retired but was working under a special contract with the city for the last few years.

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Both Polky and Dolby start in their new positions July 1.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ


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