NORWAY — Selectmen may make a decision Thursday on whether it will take the historic Opera House by eminent domain, unless they hear from its owner, Barry Mazzaglia.

“We made a formal offer with guidance from the appraisal. We haven’t heard back from him,” Town Manager David Holt said Friday. The offer was made about a week ago.

Selectmen voted Oct. 22 to begin negotiations with Mazzaglia of Bitim Enterprises in Londonderry, N.H., It was with the stipulation that the negotiated price be within the “framework” of Selectman Bill Damon’s offer of $200,000 for the Main Street edifice. If Mazzaglia does not agree to sell, the negotiation would be considered concluded. If he gives no answer, the board said it would also assume that is a “no” answer for a sale.

Although the appraisal has not been made public, Holt said there are “no surprises” in it. The appraisal of the interior of the 1894 building was done in September by Patricia Amidon of Amidon Appraisal Service in Portland after the town got a court order to allow her to go into the building for the review. The town has assessed the building at $179,300, according to assessor Jodi Keniston.

If the town buys the Opera House or if it takes it by eminent domain, the plan is to then turn it over to the Norway Maine Opera House Corp., according to corporation member and selectmen’s Chairman Bruce Cook.

The move is being made to ensure the damaged three-story brick building is secured.

A portion of the Opera House roof collapsed on Sept. 21, 2007, severing a sprinkler pipe which flooded first-floor storefronts and compromised the structural integrity of the building. Since that time, officials have grown increasingly concerned about the stability of the building and lack of response from the owner, who has turned down offers from the town to purchase the building several times.

Two engineering studies have deemed the Opera House “unsafe to the public and neighboring property,” and officials have become convinced it continues to deteriorate causing not only an unsafe situation for downtown but an unfavorable economic one.

If the board decides to go through with eminent domain, a town meeting will be set to approve the process, Holt said. The town meeting will take about seven days to set up, he said. The eminent domain process also involves a court hearing where a judge will set a “fair and equitable” price for the building.

Mazzaglia can appeal if the town succeeds in taking the building.

Mazzaglia purchased the Opera House, with its distinctive clock tower, in 2003 for $225,000. Last year, according to information on his business Web site, the property was being marketed at an asking price of $600,000 or for lease at the rate of $1,000 to $1,200 per month for up to 2,000 square feet.

The first floor of the Opera House has been vacant since late 2007, and the upper floors since the mid-1970s. It was once owned by the town and was used for community events.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.