NORWAY — An appraiser hired by the town to set a market value for the damaged Opera House on Main Street said Monday that she has still not been able to get into the building.

Patricia Amidon of Amidon Appraisal Co. in Portland said she has not been told by the town that permission has been granted by building owner Barry Mazzaglia of Bitim Enterprises in Londonderry, N.H. The town hired Amidon to do an interior appraisal of the three-story brick landmark, built in 1894, as part of the town’s efforts to force the owner to stabilize it.

It has been almost two years since a portion of the sagging roof collapsed under the weight of water, severing a sprinkler pipe and sending water down through the mostly vacant structure that is the centerpiece of the downtown historic district. Since that time, officials have grown increasingly concerned about the stability of the building and lack of response from the owner.

Mazzaglia had no insurance on the building when the roof buckled, then fire Chief Mike Mann said.

Two engineering studies have deemed the Opera House “unsafe to the public and neighboring property.”

The Board of Selectmen decided recently not to take the building by eminent domain but to ask Mazzaglia to allow an appraiser inside the building to assess the interior.

Town officials and their attorney, James Belleau of Auburn, are due in court Friday to request an order to force Mazzaglia to stabilize the building. At that time, they are expected to ask the judge to allow an appraiser in the building if Mazzaglia does not allow Amidon in by then.

In early August, selectmen had directed its attorneys to draw up papers to take the building by eminent domain as a way, in part, to gain access to the building and to try to keep the building owner from suddenly tearing it down. Two weeks after, the selectmen decided instead to get an interior appraisal prior to attempting to take the building by eminent domain. Town Manager David Holt said it was the attorney’s recommendation that this be done first.

Amidon said if she’s allowed inside she will be looking at a number of factors.

“I’ll be looking at the property to see how it compares to others,” its uniqueness and its materials.

Amidon said if she can’t get inside, she’ll have to make an assessment from the public right of way.

Last year she made an exterior appraisal but said she could not reveal the estimate because of client confidentiality rules.

Holt said Amidon’s exterior appraisal came in at between $86,000 and $225,000.

Amidon said if the property has deteriorated since that appraisal, that will also have an impact on any new number she prepares.

The Opera House is considered the anchor to the town’s downtown National Historic District with its first-floor storefronts, a ballroom, theater and balcony on the upper floors, and a distinctive bell tower housing an E. Howard clock at its top. It was once the center of community life, with concerts, balls, dances, traveling minstrel shows, theater performances, National Guard musters, town meetings and high school graduations.

It was built by the Norway Building Association, then owned by the town from 1920 to the mid-1970s, and then by a succession of private owners for the past 30 years or so. The upper floors have been vacant since the 1970s and the bottom floor since the roof collapse Sept. 21, 2007.

Mazzaglia bought it in 2003 for $225,000. He has turned down repeated offers by Selectman Bill Damon to fund the purchase by a local group for $200,000.

According to Belleau, Mazzaglia has said he has no money to do any work and has claimed he is on the verge of bankruptcy.

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Safety fencing appears to have been recently installed on the side of the Opera House to keep people out of danger from where bricks have been falling for the past two years.


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