HALLOWELL — A local developer is moving ahead with the creation of a master plan for the Stevens School property now that city officials have voted to allow ordinance changes for the project.

Morrill’s attorney, Tom Federle, said the next step is the filing of the master plan, which he expects to happen in September.

“Once the master plan is approved, (Matt) will be in a position to begin applying for development approvals,” Federle said.

Federle said Matt Morrill, who purchased the property in April, is continuing to make improvements to the Baker Building, which already has one tenant and should have another soon. He’s working on the engineering plans ahead of the necessary infrastructure work on the campus.

“It just takes time and it’s a work in progress,” he said. “(Matt) has come into this project with the long view that this is going to take time. He’s got a long road ahead of him.”

Hallowell’s City Council approved the ordinance changes in its meeting earlier this month, so Morrill and Federle have begun moving forward in the process. Last week, the Planning Board held a workshop with planning consultant Mark Eyerman to discuss that process and issues that may arise.

Eyerman, of Planning Decisions Inc., said the Stevens School Planned Development District is unique to Hallowell’s ordinance and is different than what’s required in the other zones around the city.

“The purpose was really simply to walk through the provisions in the district with the board so that they understand what the current process would be for approving the master plan and what requirements there would be,” Eyerman said by phone last week.

He said it’s a little more challenging because many of the board members were not involved in the discussions about the creation of those requirements and how they would be applied.

“Danielle (Obery), the board chair, felt it would be worthwhile to sit down and go through and understand what the process is and what the expectations would be for the applicant,” Eyerman said.

The initial two-phase process, including approval of the master plan, is long and thorough and could potentially take 270 days, though Planning Board member Jane Orbeton said the board is confident that the process shouldn’t take that long.

“I think the process may run fairly smoothly and fairly quickly, though it depends on what the proposal is,” Orbeton said.

Federle said the board has the opportunity to approve things sooner than waiting for the 45-day period outlined in the ordinance, and he thinks once the city sees the master plan, they’ll move quickly.

“We take comfort and hope in that fact that we think what Matt’s going to put before them is something they’ll see is aligned with the city’s goals,” Federle said. “If so, they can process it more quickly.”

Federle has years of experience in zoning law, and he said none of the zoning issues related to the Stevens School campus are daunting, nor is the master plan requirement. But the project does have its problems.

“The state of the infrastructure and the state of the buildings is daunting, and the many processes to finance the redevelopment are big hurdles to cross,” he said. “All of that combined creates a very large challenge, which is why most developers had taken a pass on the project.”

Late last month, the Planning Board held a special meeting to discuss ordinance changes proposed by Morrill and Federle. After more than four hours, the board unanimously voted to recommend the changes to the City Council, which approved the amended language at its July meeting.

“Based on that experience, I think they are a well-qualified board and did a really good job asking the right questions while working through the right issues,” Eyerman said. “I think they are perfectly equipped (for this work).”

Morrill, of Grand View Log and Timber Frames in Winthrop, paid $215,000 in April for the 54-acre campus on the top of Winthrop Street. The property had been marketed by the state for more than 10 years, and Morrill was interested in the property for several years before making an offer in 2015.

He envisions turning the campus into a mixed-use development with a combination of commercial and residential space including affordable housing, small retail and shared open space. The ordinance changes, Morrill said, allowed him to start marketing the property to other developers and potential tenants.

“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 earlier this month. Morrill will have to make improvements to some of the buildings so tenants can occupy the space, including work to the plumbing and heating systems, Federle said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.