HALLOWELL — The City Council unanimously approved, with conditions, the Stevens Commons master plan application during its meeting Tuesday.

Owner and developer Matt Morrill submitted his master plan for a mixed-use development on the 54-acre property at the top of Winthrop Street in September, and the plan has been scrutinized for more than five months before finally being approved. One of the conditions approved by council stipulates the master plan cannot be amended for 24 months. Any development proposals, however, will go through a normal Planning Board review process.

The council also had planned on voting to approve the third reading of a $2.36 million bond proposal, but the meeting had been postponed because of Monday’s blizzard, and a 14-day notice must be given for a public hearing associated with a third reading of any city proposal.

The bond includes $600,000 for the Stevens Commons redevelopment, $585,000 for the Water Street reconstruction project, $535,000 for work on rural Hallowell roads, $300,000 for downtown parking improvements and $220,000 to begin restoring and preserving the city’s fire station tower.

A special council meeting will be held March 6 for the sole purpose of having a public hearing on the proposed bond and a third reading of the bond. City Manager Nate Rudy said he’ll work with the city clerk to schedule a referendum on the issue for the end of April.

Morrill, of Grand View Log and Timber Frames in Winthrop, acquired the Stevens Commons property from the state in April for $215,000. Since submitting his master plan application, Morrill has asked the city for help fixing the roads and sidewalks on the campus, which he said would make the property more attractive to other developers and tenants.

In other business, the council unanimously approved Rudy’s appointment of Farmingdale firefighter Jim Owens as the city’s interim fire chief. Owens replaces Mike Grant, who retired after leading the Hallowell department for more than 31 years.

The council voted late last month to preserve the Hallowell Fire Department and lease space in a soon-to-be-constructed fire station in Farmingdale. The two departments will continue to train and work closely together but will remain autonomous.

Owens has more than 40 years of firefighting experience and has been a Farmingdale firefighter for about three years. He worked for more than 20 years for the Department of Defense in Colorado and retired from the U.S. Navy base’s fire department in Brunswick several years ago.

Stephen Langsdorf called the decision to share a station with Farmingdale “irresponsible” and said he wished the council would reconsider its decision until councilors know the ramifications of making such a switch.

“It is 100 percent irresponsible to think this town can be covered by the Hallowell Fire Department, which won’t even be in Hallowell anymore,” Langsdorf said. “Hallowell is basically freeloading on the city of Augusta’s Fire Department.”

Langsdorf, who has been the city attorney for Augusta for 20 years, said Augusta is considering its options regarding the mutual aid agreement with Hallowell and is “having serious doubts about continuing with the same type of mutual aid agreement, because it’s not mutual.”

Councilor George LaPointe said officials from the Augusta Fire Department never brought up any problems with the mutual aid agreement during any of the previous meetings. Langsdorf said he was speaking about direct conversations he’s had with Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo and Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette.

In its first official order of business Monday, the council adopted a resolution by Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, designating Hallowell as a “welcoming city.” Councilor Lisa Harvey-McPherson was the lone opposition to the resolution.

Warren was one of the speakers during a rally earlier this month at an Iraqi-owned grocery store in opposition to President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban.

Warren said she moved to Hallowell 21 years ago because it was known as such a welcoming community and she wants that to continue.

The resolution states “the City of Hallowell welcomes immigrants and all new residents and visitors to our community, and supports their paths toward citizenship, recognizing the extraordinary efforts and resilience of the individuals who move to our community under the most difficult of circumstances, and who face barriers including unfamiliar language and culture.”

Several Hallowell residents, including Warren, spoke about the need to reaffirm the city as a welcoming city, especially in the current nationwide political and social climate.

“Despite the fears we feel, there are many good things happening across the country,” Betsy Sweet said. “Hallowell can add to that goodness.”

Pat Truman and her husband said there was no reason to have a formal resolution affirming Hallowell as a “welcoming city”.

“I’m sorry that Charlotte Warren didn’t approve of President (Donald) Trump’s travel ban, but it was for the good of the country,” Truman said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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