The York Town Hall, right, and First Parish Church site side-by-side on York Street. The town and church could not reach agreement to terms that would allow the town hall to be expanded to the side or rear. Credit: Deb Cram | The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — The Town Hall in York Village will not be expanded on site, leaving town officials to come up with other alternatives to deal with overcrowding and inadequate space.

The town and First Parish Church Long-range Planning Committee could not reach agreement on terms to lease the land either behind or to the side of the Town Hall for an expansion, said Town Manager Steve Burns. While the town owns the building, First Parish Church owns the land underneath and around it.

“The long and the short of it is we both had different perspectives. We looked at purchase, we looked at lease, and we were unable to come near agreement on it,” Burns told selectmen Monday night.

On the table for the discussion was a town-commissioned report by private appraisal company The Stanhope Group that determined an appraised value for the land that would be needed for expansion and a “fair market rent.” The appraised value was $385,000, and rent was estimated at $28,000 a year.

“We thought having this information might bring us closer together,” Burns said Tuesday, but negotiations still proved elusive.

With that option off the table, Burns said the town-owned land behind Coventry Hall on Long Sands Road comes into sharp focus. A preliminary needs assessment conducted this year by Burns and assistant assessor Julie Ethridge indicated the town requires about double the amount of space it currently has at the 5,600-square-foot Town Hall. The question for selectmen is how to provide that additional space.

[York may study moving town hall into elementary school for more room]

Burns asked for and received the board’s approval to put together requests for proposals from an engineer or architect for a professional study, which the board is expected to approve at its Sept. 10 meeting. Voters approved $30,000 for this work last May.

“What’s the next step? What do we do with this building? There are two or three different concepts that could be approved. Maybe we renovate Town Hall and build an annex on Long Sands Road,” he said. “It would be good to get a professional to come in and tell us if our (Ethridge and Burns) report is in the right place.”

He said whatever is done, it’s important that the town retain use of the Town Hall, as it will revert back to First Parish if it is no longer used for town business. “We’ve had it in use for 200 years,” he said.

Selectman Mike Estes again brought up the idea of using Village Elementary School as a town hall. Burns said it’s doubtful that is a solution, based on conversations he’s had with school officials. Among other reasons, an addition on Coastal Ridge Elementary School would require purchase of additional property, possibly from First Parish Church. The school is already considering a pre-kindergarten and possibly a center for special education students, which will require more space at already tightly constrained school properties, he said.

For these reasons, said Burns, the likelihood of the town obtaining VES for municipal use within five years “is slim at best.”

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