WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday voted 7-0 to sell land off Airport Road to a man who says he would then re-sell part of it to a person who plans to use it for growing marijuana.

Councilors took the second and final vote to sell the undeveloped, city-owned land to Leo St. Peter for $12,000 an acre, with the understanding that the city would cover the cost of  a land survey if the sale is completed, but if the sale falls through, then St. Peter will cover the cost.

Councilors on July 2 took a first vote to approve selling him the property, which is beyond the end of the paved part of Airport Road and is part of a much larger parcel the city bought in 2012. The city owns 11 acres at the site.

St. Peter was not at the council meeting Tuesday, but in a telephone interview earlier in the day, he said he would buy the property and sell four or five lots to someone else who wants to put a 100-by-100-foot building on it and run a marijuana growing operation inside it. He declined to name the person but said that person approached him about the idea.

There was no discussion by either St. Peter or councilors at either the July council meeting or at the Tuesday meeting that the ultimate goal was to put a marijuana growing operation on the property.

St. Peter said earlier Tuesday that he owns some 40 acres off Webb Road, abutting the 11 acres the city owns off Airport Road, but he does not have access to Airport Road and wants to see a connector road built between Airport Road and Mitchell Road so that he can have access to Airport Road, and thus, Kennedy Memorial Drive.

“The only reason I’m buying it is to get myself access to KMD,” he said. “I’m not going to make money on the deal — zero.”

He said a new road there would increase the value of not only his property, but also the city’s property.

The city will also be able to fix a leaking fire station roof and improve a drainage system at the fire station since councilors Tuesday took a final vote to borrow $5.6 million for capital improvement projects.

The Waterville Fire Department building, seen Monday, has a leaky roof and is in need of repairs, according to city officials. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

The money also will allow the city to replace the Fire Department’s tower truck, buy a chief command vehicle for the department, purchase public works and parks and recreation equipment, fix roads, repair Waterville Public Library, install LED streetlights and develop a police firearms training range.

The council last week considered borrowing $5.5 million but voted to add $150,000 to that amount because of needed fire station repairs, bringing the total up to $5.6 million. Two votes were needed to finalize the borrowing.

City Manager Michael Roy said the city has delayed capital improvement projects for years because of budget challenges.

In other matters Tuesday, the council voted to take the first of two needed votes to remove the two northernmost former Lockwood mill buildings on Water Street from the current downtown tax increment financing district and create a new TIF district for the buildings, which are scheduled to be redeveloped into retail and commercial space on the first two floors and apartments on upper floors. The city did similar action for the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons building and buildings on Main Street downtown owned by the DePre family.

Councilors voted 7-0 to to remove the buildings from the current TIF District, and 6-1 to create a new TIF district for the buildings, with Councilor Phil Bofia, R-Ward 2, the lone dissenter.

The city’s TIF Advisory Committee recommended a 30-year TIF for the Lockwood buildings that would reimburse the owner, North River Co., 75% of the taxes it pays the city, according to Roy. But Bofia said he wanted to see that number reduced to 50%. That is why he opposed the vote, he said after the meeting.

Mariah Monks, a project manager-director for North River, based in Portland and New York City, said goals for project include revitalizing vacant and neglected mill space, filling the need for new and quality housing for people at all income levels, investing in and helping to improve the South End of the city and the nearby intersection, maintaining the historic integrity of the mills and building on the success of the adjacent Hathaway Creative Center.

Phase one of the project, totaling $19.3 million, would include developing 67 residential units, 22 of which would be market rate and 45, workforce housing, according to Monks. She said North River is thinking about having 10,000 square feet of commercial space along Water Street. Phase one would include all of the former Central Maine Power Co. building and the western side of the former Marden’s building, which is closest to downtown. Building amenities would include a gymnasium, a community center, covered parking, residential storage and green space.

Monks said North River plans to apply for Maine Housing tax credits. About $7.8 million of the $19.3 total for phase one would be in the form of affordable housing tax credits, she said. The company also will apply for state and federal historic tax credits.

Nick Isgro Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

Mayor Nick Isgro called North River’s proposal was one of the most well-prepared the city has seen.

“This is perhaps one of the most critical projects we could imagine in this city,” he said.

Council Chairman Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, concurred.

“I believe that this is an absolute must for the community,” Mayhew said.

Monks said North River bought the former KFC building across Water Street from the mill buildings.

“Our current plan is to demo that and have it for parking,” she said.

The council also took the first of two needed votes to accept $70,000 in grant funds to hire a program director for Quarry Road Recreation Area. The group, Friends of Quarry Road, applied for grants for the position and has been notified of acceptance. The council also voted to enter into a memorandum of understanding with The Friends for creation of the position, which would be a city position. The position would be funded entirely with money raised by The Friends.

Parks and Recreation Director Matt Skehan said he is excited about the new post, a full-time position under the direction of his department and “it could be a game-changing situation for the venue.”

“This position allows us to explore more programs, more events, more partnerships and bring it to a level I think it could be and should be,” he said.

Skehan said the department hopes to advertise the position in early August and hire someone Oct. 1. Mayhew said he thinks the position is long overdue and that Quarry Road is a “jewel.”

“It’s definitely an economic engine that has built the local economy,” he said.

In response to a question from Bofia about the salary for the position, Skehan said it would be “probably somewhere in the 40s,” as benefits would have to be considered also.

The council voted to authorize Roy to execute a cooperative agreement with the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District and the Waterville Sewerage District for road improvements on a section of southern Water Street. Both utilities are located on that road.

The Sanitary Treatment District has been authorized to pay the city $150,000 for the project and the Sewerage District is authorized to give $50,000. The city would pay the rest of the money needed for the estimated $286,000 project, in labor, equipment and materials, with the money coming from the paving budget and other accounts through public works.

Roy praised City Engineer Nick Champagne for his work with both utilities, which agreed to pitch money into the project.

“I want to thank the city engineer for lining that up,” Roy said. “Even though we’re going to have to contribute some, this is a win, win, win.”

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