News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 16, 2023
Blue Hill puts an offer on GSA-owned lot
Select board aims to buy BHCS property

Blue Hill to buy GSA owned property

The Town of Blue Hill has offered to buy 38 acres of a 40-acre property, pictured here, currently owned by George Stevens Academy. The property houses the Blue Hill Consolidated School and roughly 25 acres of undeveloped woodland.

Penobscot Bay Press file photo

by Will Robinson

On Tuesday, November 7, the Blue Hill Select Board sent a letter to the George Stevens Academy Board of Trustees, offering to purchase the property that houses Blue Hill Consolidated School.

The property, Map 28 Lot 78 on the town’s tax map, is a roughly 40-acre lot between Union and Pleasant Streets. In 1989, the town leased a 13-acre parcel to build Blue Hill Consolidated School. The long-term lease doesn’t expire until 2088, but select board chair Ellen Best said, “It seems GSA is in a selling mood, which they haven’t been in before.”

The board voted unanimously to make the offer after an executive session during its regular meeting on November 6. A letter signed by Best was sent to GSA’s Interim Head of School Shelley Jackson. According to the letter, the board wants to purchase 38.5 acres of land, including the space where BHCS now sits, and a large wooded area that extends behind the school.

“The town recognizes our public school’s vital importance to the community and the purchase of this property would ensure the future of BHCS beyond the current 2088 lease expiration. The additional acreage could also be used for future town municipal projects, community gardens, recreational facilities for Blue Hill residents, and/or a variety of other town needs,” the letter states.

After commissioning an appraisal of the property, the select board offered GSA $95,000, or “100% of the appraised value.” In an interview, Best said there are aspects of the lot that affect its value. BHCS, for one, blocks entry into the wooded back lot, meaning any development would require putting in a road.

“The piece the school sits on pretty much cuts off the rest,” she said. “It was really assessed as woodland because of the high cost of building a road.”

Best doesn’t expect the school to take the first offer, so the final price will have to be negotiated. In an interview, Jackson concurred, saying, “I imagine there will be a negotiation process.”

Jackson said the offer “came as a surprise” to the GSA administration. The trustees, she said, plan to discuss the offer at their November 16 regular meeting.

Pieces of the property puzzle

GSA has already sold several parcels of land this year, including its primary dormitory, the Hinckley House, on High Street. In a June interview, Sally Mills, chair of the board of trustees, said the property sales were to pay off a $3.5 million loan taken from the school’s endowment.

If the GSA board decides to sell, Jackson said, “I think it would be a step closer to repaying the loan we took from our endowment.”

According to Best, the select board hopes to finance the potential purchase with a municipal bond, to be paid back over a long period of time. However, any appropriation of funds would have to be approved at a town meeting.

Best said the board prefers to ask voters at the annual town meeting in April because of the higher turnout. Although, she clarified, a special town meeting may be called to get a decision sooner.