HALLOWELL — The City Council approved ordinance changes related to the Stevens School campus during its meeting Monday.

The Council voted 5-1 to approve the changes. Sophie Gabrion opposed the amended ordinances, and Diano Circo was absent.

The ordinance changes include allowing additional uses of the existing buildings on the 54-acre campus, which was built in the late 1870s as a boarding school for girls. The state marketed the property for more than a decade before selling to Matt Morrill, a builder who developed the Hallowell Overlook property a few years ago.

“It took a lot of work, but what we ended up with is a better project than when we started (talking about ordinance changes),” Morrill said.

Morrill, of Grand View Log and Timber Frames in Winthrop, paid $215,000 in April for the Winthrop Street property, and he’s said he envisions a mixed-use development including affordable housing, commercial uses and residential space. With the approved changes, Morrill said he can begin marketing the property to other developers and potential tenants.

His attorney, Tom Federle, said the changes mean Morrill will have to make improvements to buildings in order to have tenants occupy space, including work to the water and heating systems. Morrill said there is a psychiatry practice that wants to move into a 900-square-foot space in the 11,000-square-foot Baker Building with a lease beginning Aug. 1.

“This enables the Stevens School property to get out from being stuck in the mud, where it’s been for a long time,” Federle said. “Matt also fully expects to submit a master plan for the campus in the near future,” despite some members of the public being concerned about Morrill moving ahead with the project without a master plan.

The possibility of ordinance changes related to the Stevens School Planned Development District has existed for years, Mayor Mark Walker said. After Morrill acquired the campus in April, Walker said changes would have to be made in order for Morrill to begin working on transforming the property.

The Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend several ordinance changes to the council during a special meeting at the end of last month.

Throughout the special meeting, which lasted more than four hours, board members went back and forth with Morrill and Federle on their proposed changes, and several members of the public expressed concern about Morrill’s vision for the campus.

“It was a really constructive dialogue, and we ended up collectively working through a better rewrite,” Federle said. “We think it’s a really good product, and it was clear to us that the city views what Matt is trying to do as very much in the city’s interest.”

The council also heard the second reading of the nearly $5.7 million municipal budget, which represents about a 5 percent increase over the current year. The increase, Finance Committee chair George LaPointe said, is mostly due to the continued rise of the Regional School Unit 2 budget and the city catching up on infrastructure improvements that have been delayed for some time.

Hallowell will pay Regional School Unit 2 about 8 percent, or $211,205.26 more than last year. The overall budget would result in an increase in the property tax rate from $17.60 to $19 per $1,000 in valuation.

In other business, the Quarry Tap Room’s permit to permanently expand their premises to include their new outdoor space was unanimously approved. Their request to have live music outside from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday in celebration of Old Hallowell Day was approved by a 4-2 vote after objections from John and Janet Merrill, owners of the building adjacent to the Quarry.

John Merrill said he didn’t object to the outdoor music on Old Hallowell Day, but to subject his tenants to outdoor music on two consecutive nights would be “unconscionable.” The Merrills have been outspoken opponents of the Quarry’s expansion plans from the beginning because of the noise generated by an outdoor space adjacent to their building.

The Council spent nearly 25 minutes on the Quarry’s application and request, and new City Manager Nate Rudy, Walker and several councilors seemed generally unsure of the correct process needed to approve the Quarry’s request.

“We need to get a much cleaner process so this doesn’t happen when we have these kinds of applications,” Walker said.

The meeting was Nate Rudy’s first as city manager. He took over for Maureen AuCoin, who held the interim city manager post since the unexpected death of Stefan Pakulski in March. Rudy named Diane Polky the new city clerk and elevated Dan Kelley to the deputy city clerk position.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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