Hearing set to discuss Opera House grant


NORWAY — Selectmen will hold a public hearing June 2 to discuss the town’s application for a more than $400,000 grant to help restore the Opera House storefronts to viable business space.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the municipal office on Danforth Street.

The town is planning to apply for money under the Communities for Maine’s Future program.

“All the money would go toward rehab for Opera House storefronts,” Holt said.

Last year, voters authorized the Board of Selectmen to initiate steps to take the Main Street property by eminent domain because it was considered a public hazard. The move came after a portion of the sagging roof collapsed on Sept. 21, 2007, under the weight of water and causing significant structural damage.

The back wall was has been stabilized but the interior of the building has been untouched.

“A lot of work is necessary so that they are usable once again,” Holt said of the storefronts. “The theory for downtown is that the more businesses that there are, the better they all do.”

Last October, the town and Bitim Enterprises failed to reach a settlement on how much the town should compensate the Londonderry, N.H., company for the 1894 brick edifice. The case was continued in Oxford County Superior Court in Paris to this summer.

At the hearing, the board will outline the town’s intended use of the funds. Officials will also discuss the resubmission of the town’s comprehensive plan to the State Planning Office so that it can be deemed in compliance, which is a condition for receiving the state grant.

The comprehensive plan was not certified by the state, Holt said. A committee worked on the document for more than two years. Because the standards for acceptance are different now, and some of the information has changed. Holt said he and others have made some updates to it with current data while remaining “true” to what Norway voters wanted at the time they accepted the plan.

Holt told the selectmen recently that updating and getting the comprehensive plan accepted by the state will be the biggest hurdle in the process.

“The more we can do for the building, the better chance we have to make it desirable for someone to buy the building,” he told selectmen last week.

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