LISBON — Nearly five months after purchasing the Worumbo Mill site, the town is starting to investigate exactly what might be possible on the waterfront property.

In June, the town bought nearly 4 developable acres at 1 Canal St., the site of the former textile mill that sits along the Androscoggin River near the intersection of Route 196 and Main Street.

Ben Smith of North Star Planning, the town’s planner, is studying what the town can – and can’t – use the property for. A recent environmental study found some asbestos on the site but no other glaring environmental issues. The town is awaiting a quote from a contractor to remove the asbestos.

“There are definitely options,” Smith said Thursday.

Commercial development is allowed at the property but the proximity to the river and existing easements may limit what can be built there and where it could be built.

“Could you put a couple thousand square feet of commercial property or apartments or something like that?” Smith said. “I’m looking at this as investigative research – finding out the parameters and the end result will be a statement of constraints and opportunities.”

Smith hopes to present his findings to the town council this winter. It will be up to the town to determine what it wants this area to be in five or 10 years.

The Lisbon Development Committee has been eyeing the property for a parking lot to meet the growing demand for parking spaces in downtown Lisbon Falls. There has been a burst of new businesses and restaurants on Main Street in recent years.

“There’s really kind of an amazing energy in town, and I think the opportunity to use that Worumbo Mill property to build on that is very exciting,” Smith said.

The original Worumbo Mill complex opened in 1865 and produced woolens until it closed in the 1960s when it was part of the J.P. Stevens Co. At the time of its closure, it employed 600 people, making it the largest employer in Lisbon Falls, according to its application to the National Register of Historic Places. The mill was named after a chief of the local Anasagunticook Indians.

Most of the mill complex burned to the ground in 1987 and a white mill building that stood on the property since 1920 was torn down in July 2016.

Eagle Creek Renewable Energy acquired the hydroelectric facility formerly affiliated with the mill. The plant produces ab0ut 92 million kilowatt-hours of energy in a typical year, according to the Eagle Creek website. That is enough energy to power roughly 8,500 houses for a year.

The town first considered buying the property six years ago. A $1 million bond proposed by the council to acquire and demolish the building was rejected by voters in 2013. Nearly a year ago, the council voted unanimously to purchase the site for up to $30,000, contingent on an environmental assessment. The town closed on the property in June.

Councilor Fern Larochelle supported that bond. He said he still feels the property is worth more than $1 million.

Now that the town finally owns the property, “we don’t want to rush into anything,” said Larochelle, who also serves on Lisbon Development Committee. “At the end of the day the goal is to present something to the council that lays out what the options are and what’s the most feasible, and set up a plan not just for today and tomorrow but that may be a staged plan,” over a number of years.

The Lisbon Development Committee will hold public meetings so residents can share their vision for the property.

“At the end of the day no matter what we do, it’s still going to be an asset,” Larochelle said.

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