Bates Mill No. 5 with its black saw-toothed roof is seen in this August 2019 photo. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — The City Council on Tuesday unanimously supported changes to its option agreement with developer Tom Platz that will allow him to retain rights to purchase the property but delay closing on any sale until after environmental cleanup is complete.

Platz has redeveloped large sections of the Bates Mill Complex over a number of years, but Mill No. 5 is the last and largest of the mill buildings to move forward.

Officials said Tuesday that the amendment does not delay the redevelopment, but instead allows the city and Platz to inch closer to “a conclusion.”

In 2018, Platz’s Bates Mill LLC and the city agreed to a three-year option to buy Mill No. 5 for $1. It expires Feb. 28, 2021. Under the agreement, another developer could come forward after the first two years and attempt to win away the project.

According to city staff, while Platz would like to exercise his option to purchase the mill, the agreement as written conflicts with the terms of a federal Brownfield grant the city was awarded to remove contaminants from the building.

The grant stipulates that the city must own the building in order to spend the $500,000 in cleanup funds, a process that will take much longer than the 60-day closing period written into the agreement.

Officials said the new agreement will allow Platz to exercise the option but not require closing until 30 days after the city receives a “certificate of completion” from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for the cleanup.

Councilor Lee Clement said Tuesday that there had been a “misconception” that the city is again lengthening the agreement with Platz beyond the three-year option.

“That is not what this is doing,” he said. “It’s rearranging some language to make it easier for the city to bring this whole thing to a conclusion.”

Lincoln Jeffers, director of Economic and Community Development, told the Sun Journal on Friday that the amendment “is not an extension of the term. This just keeps the ball moving down the path.”

The amendment also gives both parties more time to work out a joint development agreement.

According to a council memo, Ransom Environmental was recently hired to oversee the environmental cleanup, which includes the removal of asbestos, lead paint, and the encapsulation of PCBs in an electrical generating and supply area of the mill.

While no timeline has been given for the work, the cleanup grant must be spent by September 2022.

SCRUTON BLOCK

Also on Tuesday, the City Council approved a tax-increment financing district for the redevelopment of 197 Lisbon St., also known as the Scruton Block.

Developer Jules Patry, who also owns Davinci’s Eatery in Lewiston, is planning to redevelop the property into 12 market-rate apartments and street-level commercial space to be completed this year. According to Patry, a tenant is ready to move in this summer.

The building is the former home of Marcotte Furniture, and was purchased by Patry in 2017.

Since then, the redevelopment has hit a few snags, including sidewalk improvements associated with a required second means of egress, and modifications for storm water separation.

The TIF agreement will return 40% of the increased assessed value resulting from the project to Patry. Over the life of the 15-year TIF, Patry would receive $99,177, while the city would get $148,766.

City councilors said Tuesday that approving the TIF was an easy decision.

Councilor Luke Jensen said the redevelopment will be “a nice addition to the downtown area” and “in the best interest of the city.”


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