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Gorham targeting gateway ‘eyesore’

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Posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 6:52 pm

GORHAM – An abandoned former gas station in Gorham’s village gateway is standing in the way of efforts to spruce up the appearance of the town.

Now, the town wants some action on the property, a former Mobil gas station, at 109 Main St.

Last week, the Gorham Town Council approved a measure to authorize its Capital Improvements/Economic Development Committee to discuss and offer a recommendation about the former building.

There was a for-sale sign on it this week. Potential options the committee is likely to discuss to rid the town of the old gas station would be buying it.

 “That’s what is staring you in the face,” Town Councilor Matt Mattingly said about what visitors and prospective businesses see when entering Gorham Village from Westbrook. “It’s a gateway to the village.”  

The building is at the busy intersection where Main Street and New Portland Road meet with Mechanic Street. Hannaford, which has an access road, is behind the old gas station, which is on the opposite side of Main Street from a shopping plaza. The building is near a Cumberland Farms, Big Apple and Rite Aid.

Mattingly, chairman of the council’s committee that has been assigned to seek a remedy, didn’t have a meeting date set as of Tuesday. He said when the committee convenes, it would look at options and see what’s possible.

“We’ve wanted to see the site redeveloped for quite a while now,” Tom Ellsworth, director of the Gorham Economic Development Corp., said Tuesday.

Gorham in recent years has ramped up its efforts to attract more businesses to town and has moved to spiff up appearances. The town sought court action that forced a cleanup of debris at a former recycling site in the Gorham Industrial Park near the Westbrook city line.

The town also seized a rundown house owned by a student fraternity that was delinquent on property taxes. In its village center, Gorham has replaced crumbling sidewalks.

The two-bay gas station property is owned by AMG Investments, according to Gorham tax records. It was built in 1940 and has been vacant for several years.

Gorham Town Manager David Cole on Feb. 9 sent a letter addressed to Loren Goodrich, AMG Investments, of Bowdoin. Cole wrote that the town could provide a loan to demolish the building.

Cole’s letter followed an earlier letter on Dec. 30 about 109 Main St. “As I indicated in that letter, Town Council members often receive adverse comments about the visual impact of the building and the vegetation on the property. From my prior conversation with you, it is my understanding that you are still marketing the property so I would like to craft something that would work with your efforts to sell the property and improve the visual impact in the interim period,” Cole wrote on Feb. 9.

Ellsworth acquired a bid price of $9,340 to demolish the building and a second option for $11,200, which would have also included removing pavement and reseeding the entire lot.

“With that prospect in mind, I believe the town could provide a loan to accomplish the demolition at an attractive interest rate and with a repayment schedule that could be creative and complement your efforts to sell or redevelop your property,” Cole wrote.

Cole hadn’t received a response as of Tuesday.

“I’d like to hear back from him,” Mattingly said.

Goodrich didn’t return two American Journal calls Tuesday.

In March 2006, the Gorham Planning Board had a proposal from Goodrich for a 1,653-square-foot Subway restaurant at 109 Main St.

Tom Poirier, town planner, said Tuesday the town had approved a proposed new building to be constructed closer to the street, with parking in the rear. Under town approval conditions for the restaurant project, the company would have been responsible to pay for intersection improvements, according to Poirier.

“It was approved. Mr. Goodrich elected not to pursue it,” Ellsworth said.

But he does operate the present Subway in Gorham at 81 Main St., a short distance from the old gas station.

The town tax records list the assessed value for 109 Main St., a .24-acre site, as $311,000, which includes the land valued at $230,200. If the decision is that the town should buy the property, Gorham voters would have to approve any expenditure over $250,000 in a referendum, according to Mattingly.

“If the town buys it, it’s not on the tax rolls,” Town Councilor Mathew Robinson said in last week’s council meeting.

But, Hans Hansen, a South Gorham resident speaking from the public podium at the council meeting, thought the town could buy the property for a park or utilize the site for a police station.

“That would be a good investment for the town,” Hansen said.

The gas station property lies between the intersection and Hannaford-owned land that wraps around the site. The adjacent Hannaford land has a lease sign posted on it. Mattingly indicated an option for the town’s committee could involve talks with Hannaford.

In the meantime, the old gas station still stands at the village gateway.

“It’s an eyesore,” Mattingly said.

Welcome to the discussion.