2017-09-14 / Front Page

Officials examine land parcels

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


The Maggie May parcels in Biddeford are undeveloped land the city owns next to the FedEx Ground Facility at 1 Bakers Way. The city is interested in developing the land because it’s one mile from exit 32 of the Maine Turnpike and has potential for access to the nearby train tracks. Biddeford Economic Improvement Commission members planned to participate in a site walk of the area Wednesday, Sept. 13. In the distance is Economic Development Coordinator Brad Favreau. Director Daniel Stevenson identifies the parcels on a map. (Grant McPherson photo) The Maggie May parcels in Biddeford are undeveloped land the city owns next to the FedEx Ground Facility at 1 Bakers Way. The city is interested in developing the land because it’s one mile from exit 32 of the Maine Turnpike and has potential for access to the nearby train tracks. Biddeford Economic Improvement Commission members planned to participate in a site walk of the area Wednesday, Sept. 13. In the distance is Economic Development Coordinator Brad Favreau. Director Daniel Stevenson identifies the parcels on a map. (Grant McPherson photo) BIDDEFORD – City officials are considering development possibilities on several vacant parcels situated between U.S. Route 1, the Biddeford Connector and U.S. Route 111 in light of the state’s plans to build a new York County Courthouse at 511-515 Elm St.

The city owns four of parcels of land that total 22.6 acres that abut the former Nissen bakery lot and current FedEx Ground facility at 1 Bakers Way. The parcel closest to Elm Street is a third of an acre lot that was purchased by the city from Richard Pate in December 2014, along with two other lots, for $700,000. The city chose not to sell the third of an acre lot to the state when it sold the other Pate properties for $810,000. The city acquired the remaining land, known as the Maggie May parcels, in 2010 due to unpaid property taxes.

The Maggie May parcels were on the initial list of properties the city of Biddeford submitted to the state as a possible location for the York County Courthouse. The site is zoned for commercial and business use, but could be changed through the zoning board of appeals. The site is approximately 1 mile to the Maine Turnpike and has the potential for rail access. Maggie May is a finance company that handled the foreclosure of the property before transferring ownership to the city. According to the city’s website, the lots previous owner was Claude Dubois Excavating of Arundel.

“We’re looking at the uses around it to see what makes the greatest sense on how to keep it zoned in order to attract commercial and industrial activity,” said Economic Development Director Daniel Stevenson.

Stevenson said the city is running low on commercial and industrial space. Three lots in the Robert G. Dodge Business Park remain open while 97 percent of it is full. There are no prospective businesses looking at the Maggie May parcels, but Stevenson said the city regularly looks for potential occupants.

“If we had a prospect for those needs we would fill it as quickly as possible,” Stevenson said.

Biddeford Economic Improvement Commission Chairman James Plamondon isn’t as confident the Maggie May parcels will be attractive to developers. He said part of the property was used as a pit for dumping of surplus building demolition material, such as concrete and brick, by Claude Dubois Excavating. However, the farthest parcel from the road is entirely forested area that could be cleared with relative ease.

“We could be talking about an industrial park or it could never happen. The condition of the parcel is so bad it might not be economically feasible to develop,” Plamondon said.

Other members of the seven-member commission were attracted to the Maggie May parcel Plamondon said, but none of them had been on a site walk like he had. The commission planned to do just that with Stevenson Wednesday, Sept. 13. The Maggie May parcel is just one area that the commission is considering for development, according to Plamondon.

“Our charge now is to locate new properties so we can have an inventory of parcels available for developers,” he said.

Plamondon would like to see the city owned 300 acres around the airport developed, and said he’s been pushing that idea for years. He admits that the construction of sewer and water infrastructure there would be difficult. Plamondon would also like to see the former Maine Energy Recovery site in downtown Biddeford used. The city purchased the former MERC site on Lincoln Street in 2012 for $6.5 million in hopes of redevelopment on the riverfront property. The property is currently vacant.

“The atmosphere is prime to have a supermarket to walk to down there,” he said. “Something like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s would go great.”

Plamondon likes the urban layout of Vancouver, where there are supermarkets, pharmacies and restaurants every three blocks or so. He said the commission discussed the idea of closing a section of Main Street to cars and turn the downtown into a walking mall. Plamondon would also like to see restaurants expand outside seating on sidewalks.

“I think we as people in Maine are not used to the urban culture of walking yet,” he said.

As far as the latest development news in Biddeford is concerned, Plamondon is happy to see the York County Courthouse being built on Elm Street. Plamondon hopes development momentum can shift from Route 111 to Route 1.

“I think the county was wise to locate it there,” he said. “Biddeford is a big population center with turnpike access.”

Stevenson and Economic Development Coordinator Brad Favreau have met with state officials about construction of the new courthouse. Stevenson made sure officials were aware of traffic and walkability concerns that residents raised during an Aug. 24 public hearing. Stevenson said the state will hire South Portland-based civil engineering firm Gorrill Palmer to conduct a traffic study of the Route 1 corridor between Five-Points and the Arundel town line.

“Within a couple months the preliminary design work should be done. We’re expecting construction to begin late summer or early fall 2018 with 18 months of work,” Stevenson said.

The city didn’t intend to have a courthouse built on the Pate Property when it purchased the property in December 2014. According to Favreau, the city hoped the state would choose to renovate the existing courthouse located on Adams Street in downtown Biddeford. The decision to sell the land to the state was ultimately up to the city council.

“The city was neutral on which site (the state) chose, that was the one they felt suited their project best,” Favreau said.

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

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