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July 3, 2018

Yarmouth condo development plan passes new zoning tests

Photo / Maureen MIlliken
Photo / Maureen MIlliken
The buildings at 153 (left) and 149 Main St. in Yarmouth will be renovated into condos after planning board approval last week. The plan includes removing the rear additions of the buildings, adding a new portion to close the back and putting a courtyard in the space in between.

YARMOUTH — A plan to renovate two historic Main Street buildings and add a large addition, creating 12 townhouse condominiums, was approved last week, the first test of two new zoning ordinances.

Waypoint Partners LLC got the go-ahead from the Planning Board for the buildings at 149 and 153 Main St., the first project to be approved under the town's new character-based zoning rule as well as the ordinance that gives breathing room for those who want to preserve historic properties slated to be demolished. Both were passed April 12.

The plan by Waypoint, headed by Freeport developer Matthew Wogan, would remove newer rear additions to the 177-year-old buildings, and add new construction at the rear of each that would house eight of the condominiums. The 15,708-square-foot U-shaped development would surround a courtyard facing Main Street.

Alex Jaegerman, Yarmouth's director of planning and development, said Monday that there was extensive discussion about the plans to remove the back ends of both buildings. "Clearly these are buildings of some value," he said.

But, he added, the additions were not part of the original buildings and it was determined they passed the scrutiny required by the demolition delay ordinance and the development clears the requirements for the CD4 character-based development ordinance.

The plan calls for four two or three-bedroom units and 20 parking spaces, with the parking area behind 149 Main St., the Weld building, expanded to 17, and three more spaces behind 153 Main St. the Shepley building.

The buildings are owned by North Yarmouth Academy, and the deal to sell them to Wogan should close soon, said Matt Cardente, of Cardente Real Estate, who represents the school, which has owned the buildings since they were constructed in the 1800s. The asking price for the buildings was $1,150,000.

One Kenwood LLC, another Wogan entity, closed on 162 Main St., across the street from the two other buildings, last week.

Waypoint's purchase of the Main Street buildings has been pending for months, waiting for town movement on the character-based zoning, which was originally up for a vote last fall.

When that didn't happen, Wogan applied for contract zoning, which the town was moving favorably on. He fashioned the development to conform to the CD4 ordinance once it passed, both he and Jaegerman said.

The passage of the new zoning, which sets requirements for the village district, made that contract zone request moot.

'Buildings of value'

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
The rear part of the Shepley building, 153 Main St., Yarmouth, will be torn down after approval from the planning board.

The demolition delay ordinance requires an initial waiting period of up to 60 days before a demolition permit is granted by the town for a building 75 years or older that's within the the ordinance's zone. The planning board then must determine if the building, or part of it that's affected, is a "building of value."

If it is, a second 60-day delay goes into effect that allows time for a new plan to be negotiated with the owner.

The ordinance covers "substantial modification," which it defines as an alteration to a building or structure involving 50% or more of the structure, or any part that fronts on a main thoroughfare, as well as some other requirements..

The Shepley building is 8,866 square feet, with a 3,020-square-foot footprint. The footprint will be reduced by 1,540 square feet with the demolition, a little more than 50% of the building. The 6,230-square-foot Weld building's footprint of 2,340 will be reduced by a little less than half — 1,160 square feet.

The part of the Shepley building that would be removed is about 1,000 square feet built in 1960, according to plans submitted to the town. The portion is "of no architectural significance," and has been stripped to the framing. The rest of it was poorly built, according to the project architect, Joe Waltman, and is also stripped to the framing.

The part of the Weld building that would be removed is much newer, town documents show.

The developer would keep the underlying foundations of both buildings for the new additions.

Waltman told town officials that the architectural and structural shortcomings of the additions "are inconsistent with the level of quality we plan to incorporate in the new construction."

Historic integrity and the village feel

Image / Waypoint Partners
Image / Waypoint Partners
A March ct at 149 and 153 Main St. in Yarmouth.

At a March 14 public hearing on the plan, five residents spoke against the project, saying they were concerned about density and traffic the project would bring.

The seller, North Yarmouth Academy, the developer and town officials all have said, however, the plan is the best use for the site.

North Yarmouth Academy, in an assessment drawn up for a master plan two years ago, determined that the two buildings were no longer needed and put them on the market. The school is paying property taxes on them since they are no longer used for school purposes.

"It is important to the academy that we partner with a buyer who is going to preserve the historic integrity of the property, and we are confident we have identified a great partner in this project," Head of School Ben Jackson told Mainebiz in March. "The current proposal for these properties is consistent with the development of a charming walking village with a thoughtful balance of residences, shops and restaurants." He made a similar statement at the March public hearing.

The Shepley building was originally a dormitory before it evolved into other uses. It became vacant when Russell Hall, which house the foreign language department, was renovated and Mertz Science Center was built in 2008.

The Weld building housed the school's admissions and communications departments, which have been relocated to Dole Hall.

Jaegerman said that the renovation plan fits in with what the town envisions with the character-based zoning ordinance.

"He's going to do a lot of work to rehabilitate the historic portions," Jaegerman said. The new portion will be complementary, reflecting some of the historic elements, but will also have elements that signal it's a 21st century building.

"The new portion shouldn't be so historic that it fools people into thinking it's old," he said. He said a principle of historic preservation is that, "people can look at it and say, 'here's the new and here's the old.'"

'The perfect village'

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
162 Main St., bought June 21 from North Yarmouth Academy by developer Matt Wogan, will remain office space.

Jaegerman said that residential use brings less traffic that office or commercial would, and that traffic tends to happen outside of business hours.

It will also bring more residents into the village who are within walking distance of services and shops, he said.

Wogan wasn't available to comment for this article, but told Mainebiz in March that Yarmouth"is the perfect village" for the project.

"The authenticity and history in the village is something that is very tough to create when building a residential community," he said. "Village living was vibrant (and a necessity) pre-automobile, and the resurgence of this style living has been on the rise across the country for quite some time — less is more perhaps? (less car, less yard, less footprint, less impact)."

Wogan said a likely market for tenants are those looking for a walkable village who can't find housing in Portland's tight market.

The town, like most around it, could use more affordable housing, Jaegerman said. While the development will be market rate, not affordable, he said it will help spark the village and be a boost to nearby businesses.

Wogan plans to keep 162 Main St. as office use. His purchase of the 6,623-square-foot building from North Yarmouth Academy was finalized June 21.

The two-story Colonial was built in 1792 and bought by the school in 2001 as part of the property it acquired to build the Metz Science Center. The school has always used it as office space, and among its tenants is the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce

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