Portland raises price on land it deemed worthless but is wanted by developer of Rock Row in Westbrook

The city of Portland is planning to sell nearly 5 acres of land it appraised as worthless for $100,000 to the company behind a huge Westbrook development project.

The property is located near the city line with Westbrook and adjacent to the site for Rock Row, a large mixed-use development, part of which is currently under construction.

Portland’s appraisal said the land, located between Rand Road and the Maine Turnpike, has no market value because there is no street frontage and part of the property has easements that were granted to Central Maine Power and preclude any building. City officials, in a memorandum about the proposed sale, also said there are wetlands on the site, but Waterstone Properties, the buyer and developer of Rock Row, has indicated it wants to consider some limited development of the land in the future.

The proposed sale will be reviewed by the Portland City Council’s Economic Development Committee on Tuesday.

Councilor Justin Costa, who chairs that committee, said the proposal initially came to the city in October, when the plan was to sell the land to Waterstone for $11,200.

But Costa said city officials renegotiated the deal after learning that Waterstone had potential development plans for the parcel, which the city had considered unbuildable. Because Waterstone would add the parcel to its existing 100-acre holdings, the issue of street frontage and access would be moot. That inherently raised the value of the land, Costa said.

Last fall, the council put the sale on hold and the Waterstone Properties developer, Josh Levy, told members of a Portland neighborhood association that the company would like to build offices or buildings for other uses on part of the land, said Maya Lena, president of the Nason’s Corner Neighborhood Association.

It’s not clear how much of the land Waterstone Properties could actually use because of the wetlands and utility easements.

Lena said the neighborhood association has not expressed opposition to the Rock Row plans, but said the comments at the meeting apparently led city officials to renegotiate the sales price.

“We thought $11,000 for five acres in Portland was pretty low,” she said.

Costa said the city will reconsider the proposed sale after being briefed at the committee meeting.

“We need to get some questions answered” about the deal, he said.

The staff memo on the proposal said the 4.82 acres is not needed for any city purposes.

The site for the development is a former quarry. The first phase of Rock Row has been approved by Westbrook officials and construction has begun on a supermarket and several smaller stores. Westbrook has also approved construction of an amphitheater and a show has been booked at the site for July.

Waterstone will be going before city officials in early spring to seek approval for the rest of the development, which will include shops, a movie theater, offices and hundreds of apartments.

Attempts to reach Waterstone Properties on Friday were not successful.

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