WATERVILLE — The Waterville Community Land Trust has come a long way since 2012 when it was merely an idea being discussed as a way to help invigorate city neighborhoods and offer affordable homes to people with low to moderate incomes.

The nonprofit land trust was formed and received tax-exempt status in 2014.

It bought and completely renovated a home in the city’s South End, which is available for sale, and purchased more property at 226 and 232 Water St. and razed two dilapidated buildings there, creating access to the Kennebec River.

The land trust also recently hired its first part-time development and communications assistant.

Interested buyers have looked at the renovated house at 181 Water St., but no one yet has been just the right fit, according to Ashley Pullen, the land trust’s president. However, since the selling price recently was reduced from $67,500 to $54,800, she is more confident a sale will happen and the land trust will grow quickly.

“I do think it’s just a matter of the first buyer falling into place and then the word will spread,” Pullen said Monday. “Our work is just so well-poised to progress in tandem with the downtown work that’s being done. It already is an inviting place to live and work and play, but I think it’s just going to be even more so as time goes on and our model of land trust becomes more familiar in the community.”

Nancy Williams, the land trust’s vice president of outreach and development, brought the idea of a land trust to Waterville when she moved here from New York a few years ago. The land trust seeks to help stabilize neighborhoods by acquiring homes, restoring or rehabilitating them and then offering them for sale to eligible people with low to moderate incomes.

Run by an all-volunteer board of directors, the land trust is able to maintain home affordability be retaining the land on which the homes are situated. Homeowners may sell the homes later if they wish, but the trust maintains ownership of the land and a substantial share of any profit on the sale of the home.

While the land trust will work citywide, officials decided to focus first on the historic South End, which once was a hub of activity and home to many Franco-Americans who moved to the city from Canada to work in the mills. The South End Neighborhood Association has been working several years to help revitalize the South End. Its president, Jackie Dupont, is a city councilor representing the South End and is a member of the land trust board.

The land trust recently bought more than 2 acres with 350 feet of Kennebec River frontage at 226 and 232 Water St. and demolished two dilapidated buildings there that were deemed not repairable. The demolition created spectacular views of the river.

City Planner Ann Beverage, a member of the land trust board, said Monday that the open land is something everyone will be able to enjoy as it becomes a public park with trails. The land trust also hopes to build an affordable home on part of the land and it would be in keeping with the architectural style of the neighborhood, according to Pullen.

Beverage credits Williams with being the brains behind the land trust. Williams, who has applied for and received grants for the trust, is former executive director of the multimillion-dollar Lake George Land Conservancy in New York.

“She’s our work horse,” Beverage said, adding that she thinks the land trust’s progress has been “fantastic.”

“Certainly, this was Nancy’s idea from the start, and I was very supportive because I’m such a fan of the South End,” she said. “I feel it has so much potential.”

Beverage said it also has been helpful that the City Council is interested in improving the South End neighborhood.

“It’s great to have support from the city,” she said.

She added that Paula Raymond of the South End Neighborhood Association has been helpful with the effort.

The land trust survives on grants and donations. It bought the house at 181 Water St. with funding given by an anonymous donor through the Maine Community Foundation. It is being marketed by Jill Huard of CENTURY 21 Surette Real Estate. A call placed Monday afternoon to Huard was not immediately returned.

The land trust’s new position of part time development and communications assistant, held by Meg Bernier Boyd, also is funded through a grant from the Maine Community Foundation. New purchases are funded through a grant from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation.

Pullen said the home at 181 Water St. was slow to sell for a couple of reasons, including that some people did not have the credit to be able to buy it. The board decided to reduce the price to make it more in line with a traditional land trust model at 75 percent of the assessed market price.

“We looked at the assessed value of the house and land and took the land out of that because the land is kept with the land trust,” she said.

She said the land trust has banks on board that are educated about the land trust model and are willing to work with that model. The two-story, three-bedroom home has all new appliances, new walls, a new bathroom on the second floor and other features. Williams said Monday she thinks it will sell. Like Pullen, she believes it’s just a matter of finding the right buyer.

“Finding the right buyer turned out to be a little more complicated than we thought,” she said. “We know they’re out there.”

Williams noted that Kennebec Messalonskee Trails and the city are developing trails and walkways that will connect the South End to downtown and the confluence of the Kennebec River and Messalonskee Stream. The surfaces are great for hiking and biking, she said.

“It will be a great place to live,” she said. “It is now, but it will become an even more desirable neighborhood.”

The property the land trust purchased on the river contains extensive wildlife, with birds, deer and other creatures, she said.

Anyone interested in the 181 Water St. house may contact Pullen at [email protected], the land trust web page at www.watervilleclt.org, or its Facebook page.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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