I'm quite aware of what his opinion is......Is Fred Hastings a pen name ?[ 02-27-2003: Message edited by: Snowalker ]
The Downeast Coastal Press, February 18-24, 2003Cutler Residents Out in Force to Hear Options
for Development of Navy BaseDrug Rehab Group Declines to Say It Would Not Seek Litigation
Should Its Proposal Be RejectedBy Fred Hastings
Cutler residents, despite drifting snows and poor driving conditions, came out in force February 12—in what many old-timers said was the most well-attended town meeting in memory—to hear, debate and voice their opinions about three proposals for reuse of the Cutler Navy base.
The size of the crowd—estimated at about 225 (80 percent Cutler residents; 20 percent nonresidents)—was an indication of the community’s keen interest in what becomes of the former military installation.
The Cutler Development Corporation (CDC) sponsored the public informational meeting, where representatives of each of the three proposals—two private developers and one nonprofit—summarized their ideas and answered questions. The CDC, a group of six area municipal officials and residents (three from Cutler and three from Machias and East Machias), was created by Congress to allow greater local influence in determining the base’s fate. It was given the task of transferring the surplus government property and finding an appropriate reuse, a responsibility carried out by the federal General Services Administration in the absence of special legislation.
David Eldridge, a recent past Cutler selectman and president of the CDC board, gave a chronology since the base closure in the mid-1990s. He outlined the decision criteria the CDC will use to score each proposal: effect on the environment, number and types of jobs generated, amount of the base to be utilized and effect on taxes and economic development.
Dianne Tilton, executive director of the Sunrise County Economic Council, a nonprofit agency that provides services to both public and private development efforts, moderated the meeting.
Time-Share Resort Proposal
Chris Harrington, a principal in Sunrise Development Company, Inc., overviewed his proposal to develop the 61-unit housing and recreation portion of the base into a time-share resort comprising 3,111 interval weeks.
Sunrise would also provide financial assistance, estimated at $1 million and possibly more, for three years to the CDC for the marketing and maintenance of the commercial/industrial portion of the base.
Key benefits of the time-share proposal were identified as follows:
• 20 full-time equivalent jobs with salaries ranging from $20,000 to $60,000
• Approximately $160,000 per year in property taxes
• Tax Increment Financing to be developed at community’s option, sheltering the estimated $10.4 million assessment for up to 20 years so education subsidies are not reduced and county tax is not increased
• Approximately $2,250,000 annual local spending by time-share owners
• Approximately $1,000,000 annual local spending by resort owners’ association
• Probable Web site promotion of Downeast area businesses
• Minimal or no environmental impact
• No or little demand on public services in the community
• Gateway opportunity for interaction between local residents and time-share owners, many of whom are businesspeople looking to make further investments in the region
Harrington said that time-sharing resorts continue to be among the fastest-growing real estate concepts and activities. His five-year-old 17-unit resort in Greenville, known as Moosehead Cottage Resort, will be sold out within three months, he said, adding that recent studies indicate that a typical time-share visitor spends nearly $1,000 a week while on vacation.
Adaptive Reuse/Resale of Entire Base
The second presentation was by Peter Calandruccio, an architect/developer from Savannah, Georgia, who is building a home on Beals Island. He is a key principal in a small group of Jonesport-area and out-of-state investors (Sunset Development Corporation) who have proposed to take the base “as is” and accept full liability for maintaining the facility and finding appropriate buyers for the residential housing and commercial properties.
Citing his earlier redevelopment projects in a blighted downtown section of Knoxville, Tennessee, and more recently in Savannah, Calandruccio stressed that his group’s approach sought not to employ the facility in its current condition. That would limit the property’s potential, he said. Instead, through analysis, adaptive redesign and investment, his group would enhance the assets before finding viable end users for both components.
Selling housing units first would generate immediate revenues to help pay the more than $650,000 in annual maintenance fees at the base. By phasing the project in such a way, marketing the commercial properties would be a task done not from a position of need, said Calandruccio, but from a position of strength.
Key benefits of his proposal were the following:
• Assumption of liability for continued maintenance and disposition of the base
• An estimated $113,000 annually in taxes once properties come under new ownership
• Positive, phased marketing approach that will “create a link to the world,” drawing interest not only to the base site but to the Downeast region
• An estimated 128-210 new jobs once the commercial side is operational with a permanent owner, with leasing opportunities for seasonal and other area business tenants in the short term
• Positive environmental impact, with an estimated $750,000 investment in landscaping, including trees, lighting, underground wiring, parks and trails
• An estimated $2.7 million in local contractor services
• Wastewater treatment plant with licensed operator will remain operational with metering envisioned for separate private residences
• A total capital investment of $3.9 million, with as much as $1.5 million sought in grants but not contingent upon winning public funding support for infrastructure improvements
• Affordable housing units, with prices ranging from $50,000 for the duplexes to $100,000 for the one single-family home, at an average estimated sales price of $75,000
Asked what would happen if his housing and commercial buildings should fail to attract buyers, Calandruccio could not foresee such an outcome, replying, “I see lots of interest.” The biggest risk was in finding a buyer for the commercial properties. But with the growth of the new residential community, the value of the commercial buildings would increase. He said his partners, including Richard Deegan of Beals and William Milliken of Jonesport, are setting aside 10 percent of their investment as a contingency should additional resources be needed to find end users.
Residential Drug Treatment Facility
The most publicized proposal for the base, one that has engendered the most outspoken support and opposition since announced last summer, would establish a therapeutic community for alcohol and drug addiction.
Proposed by the Hancock County-based nonprofit Maine Lighthouse Corporation, the rehab facility would fill a need not currently available in New England for a nine- to 12-month residential program, with intensive therapy, educational and vocational training. It would be modeled after Daytop Village, a facility in Rhinebeck, New York.
Gary DeLong, executive director of the Maine Sea Coast Mission in Bar Harbor and Lighthouse board member, summarized the proposal and answered questions, assisted by several board members and Daytop administrators and staff.
In addition to helping individuals overcome their addiction, the residential drug treatment facility offered the following benefits:
• $155,000 payment to the CDC for transfer of property
• $70,000 annual in-lieu-of-taxes payment to Cutler
• Job creation during the initial $5.2 million construction and renovation period and between 62 and 100 permanent jobs once fully operational
• Economic growth in the form of local purchase of supplies and services, attraction of family members and visitors to the area, enhanced local workforce with drug-free graduates of program
• Shore access to the public, with a possible floating pier constructed for small craft and pedestrian traffic
• Public use of recreational facilities
• Minimal environmental impact
• Return of any and all property to the CDC or Cutler should program cease to operate
DeLong recalled a statement by Attorney General Steven Rowe during an early meeting of the Lighthouse board with state leaders in law enforcement, education and medicine. Recalling the mission of the Navy’s antenna towers in Cutler, which are used to communicate with Navy vessels around the world as servicemen perform their duties defending the nation from foreign adversaries, Rowe said of the proposed drug treatment proposal, “It will guard us against an invader from within.”
Give-and-Take Has Testy Moments
Although the presentations and discussions were largely civil, there were moments when strong feelings were displayed during the question-and-answer session, where most comments and queries focused on the drug rehab proposal.
Statements at the meeting and thoughts expressed in numerous letters to the editor in local papers touched upon a number of considerations. Chief concerns were about security for children living near the base, the effect on property values, state subsidies and tax revenues, and the growing imbalance between public and private property in the town. Extensive land acquisition by government agencies and land trusts in recent times, together with regulations governing shore-land zoning and conservation, have placed approximately 90 percent of Cutler’s 45 square miles of land area off-limits to further development.
Some Cutler residents resented what they perceived as outside pressure and emotive appeals in the form of citizen petitions, resolutions, public meetings and mail campaigns promoting the drug rehab center—supported by the Lighthouse group, antidrug organizations, county and municipal officials and the labor union representing federal workers at the base.
Editorials endorsing the drug rehab proposal have appeared in the Bangor Daily News and the Quoddy Tides, and articles promoting it have appeared in Down East magazine, the Boston Globe and on Maine Public Radio, among other media. Although presenting extensive coverage of the drug rehab proposal, the pieces offered less information about the two other proposals for the base and their potential benefits to the town and region.
Another criticism expressed was the condescending attitude on the part of some members of the Lighthouse group.
Dan Wathen, a former chief justice of the Maine Supreme Court, one-time gubernatorial candidate and Maine Lighthouse Corporation board member, called upon Cutler residents to evaluate their proposal in terms of a service industry, to focus on “job creation, not taxes.” He said the drug rehab proposal represents a “wonderful opportunity to rebuild your community—rebuild it for all, not just for the few.”
Cutler resident Sherman McCaslin took umbrage. “Rebuild?” he asked. His own assessment of the town was that it didn’t warrant that characterization.
Tracy Labonte, who lives near the base entrance, asked for assurances that her young children would be safe from the clients housed at the treatment center.
“There has never been one incident of violation of person or property,” said a Daytop Village administrator, adding that “no one can be completely safe anywhere” and that “it took quite a few years to develop a relationship with the Rhinebeck community.”
Brian Cates, a Cutler commercial fisherman, offered support for the drug rehab proposal, saying he knew friends and neighbors who have become addicted to drugs. Asked Cates: “How much is it worth if there’s one success?”
Cutler resident Robert Kord asked the Maine Lighthouse group if it had investigated alternative sites should its Cutler proposal not be selected.
DeLong responded that there was “no fallback if rejected,” adding that all their emphasis had been on the Cutler base as the “perfect” site.
Kord, concerned about reports that some were questioning the authority of the CDC, also asked each of the three if they would “accept without reservation the decision of the CDC board and not resort to legal or political tactics” should their proposal not be chosen. Both private developers agreed. DeLong said he could not “speak for the [Maine Lighthouse] group,” adding that litigation had “never been discussed” by his board.
CDC to Tabulate Surveys, Meet Feb. 26
The ballot box of written surveys, which were color-coded to distinguish between Cutler residents and those living elsewhere, asked attendees to identify their preferences and to offer comments.
According to Cutler Town Clerk Teresa Bragg, the members of the CDC board will review and tabulate the surveys and announce the results at the board’s next meeting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 26, at the Machias Savings Bank Community Room. The board may also announce its preference at that time and how it will proceed with the selected party.
And your opinion of this is Jon ??
The proposal to build housing and develop commercial opportunities scored highest and was chosen in a unanimous vote by the Cutler Development Corporation.The plan is to first improve and market the 61 houses at $70,000 to 75,000 each (in Portland that would be a steal. Is it affordable for Eastern Maine?). The article below detailing last night’s action call it a commercial use of the property. I think it does a disservice to what the developer proposes. Part of the problem is that most people think banks and office when they hear “commercial use”. Commercial use could include apartments, condos, and other residential uses in the mix. I have not seen the property or know it location relative to the rest of cutler, but I could see the creation of a new pseudo village here.This probably could be an excellent opportunity for investors of individual homes. My one concern is that it could be developed into a destination place like Boothbay Harbor and eventually become unaffordable to the local people.Steven Scharf
97 Grant Street, 2nd Floor
Portland, Maine 04101
By Mary Anne Clancy, Of the NEWS Staff
Last updated: Thursday, February 27, 2003
Commercial use endorsed for Cutler
Proposals for drug treatment facility or time shares are voted down
MACHIAS - A proposal to sell the military housing at the former Cutler Navy base and market the administration buildings for commercial development has beat out a drug treatment center and a time-share vacation resort as the best use of the former military installation. Members of the Cutler Development Corp. voted unanimously Wednesday to enter into a "tentative developer agreement" with Sunset Group LLC, a group of brokers and investors from Jonesport, Vero Beach, Fla., and Atlanta.The vote followed a failed motion by Machias Town Manager Christine Therrien to enter into a tentative developer agreement with The Maine Lighthouse Corp., the group that proposed to develop a residential drug treatment center on the 80 acres of excess government property at the base.Therrien, one of six members of the development corporation, said she gave the drug treatment proposal the highest score because of the Washington County's need for such a program. Therrien was the only person to vote in support of the motion.Charlene Cates, one of the three Cutler members on the development corporation, said the Sunset Group LLC proposal earned the highest aggregate scores - garnering 81 out of a possible 105 votes on such criteria as the number of jobs to be created, the amount of tax revenue generated, community benefit, and percentage of the base to be transferred to the developers.The time-share vacation resort proposed by Sunrise Development Co. received 73 points and the Maine Lighthouse proposal 66.15, Cates said.The vote to choose Sunset LLC came as no surprise to the 25 people who attended Wednesday nights meeting of the Cutler Development Corp.The development corporation comprises representatives of Cutler, Machias and East Machias and was created to assure that Machias Bay Area communities had a role in determining how the base would be reused.Cutler residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Sunset LLC proposal in surveys distributed during a Feb. 12 public meeting in which all three applicants explained their proposals. Comments from Cutler residents - who sat together in rows of chairs reserved for "Cutler voters and taxpayers" - were particularly critical of the drug treatment center, saying they did not want such a facility in their community.Of the 155 Cutler residents who turned in surveys after the meeting, 93 voted in support of the Sunset Group LLC proposal, 51 in favor of the time share and 11 in favor of the Lighthouse proposal.According to a presentation of the Sunset Group proposal during that meeting by Peter Callandruccio, an architect and developer from Atlanta, the group will pay the development corporation $150,000 for the 80 acres of base property, which is valued - according to a consultant's report - at $10.5 million.Sunset will make some cosmetic repairs and renovations to the 61 units of base housing and sell them for $70,000 to $75,000 a unit.That will provide the return on the group's investment, allowing Sunset to take its time marketing the commercial side of the base, Callandruccio said.The commercial side will be marketed worldwide through the services of Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corp., he said.The Cutler Development Corp. will work with Sunset Group LLC for the next 120 days to hammer out the details of the final agreement.