April 06, 2020

Ellsworth councilors tackle vacant lot issue

ELLSWORTH – The City Council gave the city manager authorization Monday to continue working to redevelop a piece of waterfront property that has been vacant for more than two years.

A council order gives City Manager Stephen Gunty the right to potentially turn over the city’s rights to the former Morrison Chevrolet lot on Water Street to a qualified nonprofit agency.

That transfer of rights would free up a wealth of additional funding options, according to Alan Baker, a local business owner who has spearheaded the project.

Baker raised the money to purchase a one-year option to buy the 2-acre lot more than a year ago for $25,000.

In August, that option was extended for another six months, but the property remains empty and Baker, who heads the acquisition committee, wants more direction from the city.

“We need some guidance here,” Baker said. “The city has not put cash into this yet, but a lot of others have.”

The purchase price for the property – left vacant when Morrison Chevrolet moved to a lot on Route 1 – is about $1.2 million.

Baker’s committee has said it will raise $300,000 if the city can commit to raising $600,000 through various grants. The lot’s owner has said the final $300,000 will be waived if the rest is raised.

So far, though, not much fundraising has been done. Gunty said he hopes Monday’s order will jumpstart things, and he already has been in talks with a handful of nonprofit agencies.

The Morrison property overlooks the Union River and is in close proximity to the downtown. The acquisition committee has put together plans to develop the land into a mixed-use project that would incorporate open space with some

kind of anchor business.

“I still feel like this could be a historic development for the city,” City Councilor John Moore said Monday before voting to give Gunty the go-ahead.

In other news Monday, the City Council agreed to set aside $5,000 that will be combined with a $10,000 Community Development Block Grant to conduct a downtown parking study.

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