Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Amy Calder firstname.lastname@example.org
WATERVILLE -- City councilors voted 6-0 to sell a city-owned property on Western Avenue for $50,000, but were split 4-2 on selling a house on Water Street in the city's South End for $15,000.
Councilors Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, and Eliza Mathias, D-Ward 6, said they did not want to see the 167 Water St. house, which the city acquired for nonpayment of taxes, sold to someone who would rent it out to other people.
They said they wanted it owner-occupied. City officials have long talked about changing the city for the better, but continue with the status quo, Thomas said.
"I'm just not going to vote for this, and I do have reasons," she said.
She said the South End Neighborhood Association has worked hard to improve the area and make it more family oriented.
Mathias agreed, saying the city's acquiring property in the South End presents an opportunity for such improvement.
"The city should be the change that we want to see in Waterville," she said.
But Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, said Luke Duplessis, the prospective owner of the house, owns the downtown business Mainely Brews and would be a responsible landlord.
Duplessis lives nearby on Water Street and his business has the best landscaping downtown and won a Business of the Year Award, according to Thomas.
Duplessis would not be an absentee landlord, he argued.
"I agree that we have to start dealing with these issues in the South End, I just don't think this property is the place to start," Thomas said.
He said it is better to sell the house, pay off the taxes and then start identifying places that need to be torn down.
Rancourt-Thomas has long argued that the 167 Water St. house should be razed.
Councilors must take two more votes on the sale of the house, which councilors toured earlier this year.
"We all toured this property and it was the consensus of the council that it shouldn't be torn down," Thomas said.
But Rancourt-Thomas said the house has no property to speak of and there's no space for landscaping or a garden.
South End resident Scott McAdoo said he lives near the house and has seen it sold repeatedly and people moving in and out again.
"It's a pattern with this place," he said.
He also recommended it be razed.
Meanwhile, councilors voted 6-0 to sell the former parks and recreation building on Western Avenue to someone who plans to both live in it and convert it to an art studio and gallery space.
The Planning Board on Monday voted 5-0 to recommend the property be rezoned from residential to contract zoned/commercial to allow for the use.
Councilors are scheduled to vote on the zone change at their next meeting, Wednesday, Jan. 2.
John Heaton Jones, who wants to buy the building, plans to rent out studio space to artists to display their works and occasionally have a gallery opening, according to Thomas.
Councilors also must take two more votes on that sale.
Before it was a parks and recreation building, the building was a fire substation.
Councilor John O'Donnell, D-Ward 5, and Mayor Karen Heck were absent from the meeting, which Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, facilitated.
Amy Calder -- 861-9247