WATERVILLE — A proposal to turn a former convent off Western Avenue into a 28-unit affordable senior housing complex has moved a step closer to reality with city approval of a municipal tax increment financing district and related development plan for the project.

City Manager Michael Roy noted that the proposed Merici Woods Redevelopment project application still needs approval from the Maine State Housing Authority.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 6-1 to approve the tax district and plan after having taken a first vote to approve it on Aug. 16.

The tax increment financing district would give the development a 75 percent tax reimbursement over 20 years. The entrance to Merici Woods would be off Chase Avenue, as part of the plan.

The Ursuline Sisters, who run the adjacent Mount Merici Academy, asked the Waterville Housing Authority to develop the project, according to Diane Townsend, director of the Waterville Housing Authority.

The project would use historic tax credits to help develop the property and the for-profit ownership entity would remain for-profit for 15 years. After that, it would become nonprofit, but the property would continue to be a tax-paying entity.

If developed, the project would include efficiency apartments that would rent for $550 to $560 a month, and one- and two-bedroom units that would rent for up to $750 a month.

Council Chairman John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, was the lone dissenter in the vote Tuesday to approve the TIF district and related development plan.

O’Donnell said Wednesday that he thinks it’s a wonderful project, but he had reservations about the final details of the TIF deal. When he and other members of the city’s TIF committee, including councilors Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, and Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, met and discussed the terms of the TIF, they agreed on a reimbursement of not more than 50 percent over 20 years, according to O’Donnell. Those were the terms given to the former Seton Hospital redevelopment housing project, he said, adding he understood that 20 years and 50 percent was deemed a new policy for housing.

But Mayhew on Wednesday night refuted O’Donnell’s contention that everyone agreed on no more than 50 percent and 20 years in the TIF meeting. Mayhew said they did vote on 50 percent for 20 years, but he emphasized that the project is different from the Seton redevelopment project and comparing the two was “like comparing apples and oranges.”

“I said I’d like this to be negotiable because I don’t believe this project is the same,” Mayhew said, adding that he told TIF committee members the issue should be put before councilors. At a later council meeting, Mayhew made a motion to increase the term to 75 percent, he said. He said the Seton redevelopment project is privately owned and the Mount Merici project is under strict covenants and guidelines, has a tighter budget, is for people 55 and older and does not have the versatility the Seton project has.

In other matters Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to approve a revised fee schedule for ski passes at the Quarry Road Recreation Area, approve a natural gas easement for 10 Temple Court that would allow Summit Natural Gas to serve that and nearby buildings, accept $31,970 in drug forfeiture money to be added to the Police Department’s drug forfeiture fund, and refer to the Planning Board for recommendation to the council a request to rezone 66 Ridge Road to allow Resurrection Life Church to move there from Appleton Street.

Councilors voted 7-0 to buy a 2017 Ford Police Interceptor sport utility vehicle from Darling’s Bangor Ford for $21,373. The purchase includes the trade-in value of a 2013 Ford Taurus.

They also voted to buy a 2016 compact excavator with attachments from Central Equipment Co., of Stillwater, for $117,750; a 2016 vacuum street sweeper from Viking-Cives, of Lewiston, for $221,321; a 2016 four-wheel-drive regular cab pickup truck from Quirk Ford, of Augusta, for $25,564; and an anticipated 2,700 tons of winter road salt from New England Salt Co. as part of a cooperative purchasing program with the state Department of Transportation, for $163,323.

Mayor Nick Isgro, on behalf of the council, proclaimed September 2016 to be Global Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month. Scott McAdoo, of the South End Neighborhood Association, invited Isgro, Roy and councilors to tour the island trails off Water Street where volunteers built a bridge so hikers can get to the island. McAdoo said that on Sept. 1, 24 Colby College students worked two hours to help clear brush on the island as part of the project.

Parent volunteer Scott Jones also reported on renovations to the Waterville Senior High School Trask Auditorium, which were possible with funds raised by a parent group.

“We have raised over $300,000 that was not from the tax base to do these renovations to the auditorium,” Jones said.

The renovations include new, cushy seats, new light boards and an expanded stage. People may “purchase” seats in the auditorium for $250 per seat or $1,000 for five seats. Of 688 seats in the auditorium, 490 have been sold.

A representative of the Waterville Elks Lodge said that from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 14, a special free appreciation cookout will be held for veterans, their spouses and families, at the lodge on Industrial Road. Donations will be accepted.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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