WATERVILLE — The Waterville City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday night to reject a California company’s bid to purchase two current leases for space on a city-owned fire station tower for $420,000.

Lease Advisors wanted to buy the leases already in place with T-Mobile and Verizon for 25 years, with that span of time to increase if the city decided to do a longer-term contract with the company.

About 30 people turned out for the meeting in the Chace Community Forum at the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons downtown.

Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, said if the city took the $420,000 and invested it, it would generate more money over the next 25 years, but he did not “think that many feel we can count on city government to not spend it.”

“I don’t think it’s a wise move to sell these leases,” he said.

Councilor Richard Foss, R-Ward 5, agreed.

“We all know that that would go away in about 32 seconds,” he said.

Thomas noted the city takes a risk in not selling the leases. Verizon and T-Mobile have opt-out clauses on their leases and if they decide six months from now that they want to opt out, the city loses that monthly revenue, he said. There is no indication they would opt out, according to Thomas.

City Manager Michael Roy had recommended the city not sell the leases. In a memorandum to councilors, Roy listed the pros and cons of the tower lease proposal. A benefit is that the city would have $420,000 to invest over 25 years at 5%, which would give the city $1.4 million. The city also would be relieved from having to manage leases, according to Roy.

However, he said if the city received the $420,000 lump sum and spent it all up front, the city would give up control of the tower on its fire station for a long time. The city would get only 50% of revenue from any new leases.

If Waterville were to keep the existing leases for another 10 years, Roy estimated that would bring the city $497,024. He noted the city has had the leases for 13 or 14 years with no problem managing them. If the city were to give up the leases prior to expiration, it would lose the ability to negotiate better pricing, according to Roy.

In other matters Tuesday, councilors voted 7-0 to send a request to amend the zoning ordinance to add solar farm regulations to the document back to the Waterville Planning Board.

The proposed change would add a definition and performance standards to the ordinance that would allow solar farms in both the Rural Residential and Airport Industrial zones.

The council voted Jan. 7 to approve the amendment as recommended by the Planning Board, but Foss said Tuesday he did not think people want a solar farm next to their homes. Roy said the zoning ordinance does not list solar farms as a possible use, but one could argue they would be permitted in the Industrial Zone.

Mayor Nick Isgro said he thought Rural Residential should be removed from the language in the proposed amendment.

“We’re kind of blanket saying that a solar farm belongs in a residential zone, and it doesn’t,” he said.

Thomas agreed, saying he thought the issue requires a case-by-case discussion.

Councilor Claude Francke, Ward 6, suggested sending the matter back to the Planning Board to clarify that board’s rationale for its recommendation. Roy agreed.

Councilors also postponed a second, final vote on amending the marijuana ordinance, to clarify that the city clerk would administer the licensing of all marijuana facilities, license fees would be collected at the time of application, such fees are refunded if a license is not granted and annual license fees apply to medical marijuana cultivation facilities.

The council also postponed a request to take a final vote to amend the licenses and permits ordinance to add a reference to the marijuana ordinance.

Councilors voted Jan. 7 to approve both amendments, but decided Tuesday night more discussion is needed before taking final votes.

Councilors also voted to waive foreclosure for back taxes on 10 mobile homes that are now in mobile home parks.

Roy said if the city were to take the homes, they would have to be moved or the city would have to pay lot rental fees until they are sold.

Also, Roy said, it would cost the city a considerable amount to get some of the mobile homes in sellable condition because they have been allowed to deteriorate over the years.

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