NORRIDGEWOCK — With less than a month to go before requests for proposals to develop the vacant fire station on Main Street are due, the town is accepting questions about the property from developers until Friday.

Town Manager Richard LaBelle said the town is asking that any questions about the property be delivered in writing.

Proposals for the purchase and redevelopment project are due no later than 4 p.m. July 21. LaBelle plans to begin reviewing proposals July 24. The RFP seeks interested developers for the site at 70 Main St., which was the town’s fire station from 1960 until 2016, when a new station was built elsewhere on Main Street.

Redevelopment of the vacant fire station is one of the targets of the town’s Tax Increment Financing Advisory Committee, which aims to provide recommendations on how to spend TIF money to revitalize the downtown area. The committee has developed criteria for what it would like to accomplish with the TIF district, which allows municipalities to capture revenue for development projects from the tax value of those improvements. Norridgewock’s TIF district is centered around the Summit Natural Gas Pipeline.

LaBelle said questions about the property had been asked at a recent TIF Advisory Committee meeting, so to provide a fair playing field for developers, the town wanted to hear all questions so answers can be published later. LaBelle said that means he won’t have to double back later to provide answers to developers, but also allows interested parties to have the same information about the property.

“We’ve seen an increase in interest in the property,” LaBelle said, adding he anticipates that trend will continue.

He said about a dozen potential developers have contacted the Town Office about the property, but he didn’t have a way to gauge the number of interested parties that haven’t contacted the town.

“I’m pleased with the level of response we’ve had so far,” LaBelle said.

The town’s website has a list of questions and answers about the property. The first asks what the property taxes are. While the property has been tax-exempt the last six years, it is assessed at $37,100. Other questions ask what the water bill is, which is $90 per quarter; and what the sewer bill is, $112.50 per quarter.

LaBelle has said the committee wanted to focus on the downtown area primarily, especially in terms of aesthetics, though the TIF extends beyond that. LaBelle said the committee was aiming to develop the area around U.S. Route 2 and Route 139. The site of the old fire station is about 250 feet west of that intersection.

The committee’s criteria for the RFP fall into three parts: the ability to strengthen the community economically and aesthetically; the developer’s investment needs, meaning will the project be funded privately or require TIF expenses; and the applicant’s credentials. The RFP, which was approved by the town’s Board of Selectmen, must contain a cover letter, a description of the proposed development, a description of the developers involved with their work history, a budget, a market study or other information about demand for the proposed development, a description of the economic benefits that are expected to follow, a description or rendering of aesthetic improvements to the building, and a proposed time frame.

LaBelle plans to conduct a preliminary review of the proposals and then make recommendations to the TIF committee on completeness and responsiveness of the applications.

The committee will review proposals deemed complete and responsive, beginning at a meeting to be scheduled within 10 business days of the deadline date for submission. After that, the committee will make recommendations to the Board of Selectmen, which ultimately will make a decision on the developer. The committee also might decide which potential developers may come to present to the town.

According to the RFP, the goal is to have a developer chosen as soon as possible and to develop the site starting no later than spring 2018. An anticipated timeline in the RFP has the committee reviewing proposals on or before Aug. 4, and the Board of Selectmen choosing the developer by Sept. 20 and then negotiating the terms of redevelopment and closing on the land sale by Oct. 18, though the timeline states these dates are subject to change.

It is hoped that revitalizing the vacant building will boost economic growth downtown. Voters at this year’s Town Meeting gave the Board of Selectmen approval to sell the old fire station, and LaBelle has said the committee is open to almost anything in terms of the building’s redevelopment.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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