The Harpswell Coastal Academy site’s new owner plans to convert more than half of the former charter school into office space, according to an application filed with the Harpswell Planning Board in late August.

A limited liability company owned by local resident Scott J. Merryman, called 9 Ash Point Road LLC, submitted its site plan application to the board on Aug. 29. It seeks approval to convert about 9,500 square feet of the 18,000-square-foot former academy building into “office and (professional) space” without making any major changes to the property.

Merryman’s LLC completed its purchase of the now-closed charter school’s campus at 9 Ash Point Road in Harpswell on July 5. The purchase price has not been disclosed.

The town Planning Board discussed the application at its Wednesday, Sept. 20, meeting and determined the project did not require site plan approval because the proposed use would be no more infrastructure-intensive than the school was at its peak enrollment.

As proposed, the project would convert the building’s former classrooms, administrative offices and utility spaces into office and professional space.

“I’m just looking to change the school to office/business space and see what type of business we get,” Merryman, a lobsterman who lives in Harpswell, told the Planning Board.

The board noted that if Merryman decides to repurpose the remaining gym, music room and other areas for future occupancy, he would need to seek further approval.

Merryman has said he purchased the site because he thought it was a good opportunity and wanted to ensure it continues to serve a community purpose.

According to the application, Merryman is planning few changes to the site, with no new development proposed. 

Harpswell Town Planner Mark Eyerman determined the adjacent roads would be sufficient for about 35-40 office workers, although he estimated likely occupancy at closer to 20-25 workers based on current remote and hybrid working trends.

The nearly 8-acre property features a baseball diamond and parking for about 30 vehicles, with street parking included, as well as about 4.5 acres of woods. The former school building has seven classrooms, seven offices and seven bathrooms, as well as a gymnasium, kitchen, cafeteria and library.

Some area residents, including neighbor and business owner Kara Douglas, have expressed concerns about groundwater usage at the repurposed site. The application estimates water usage of roughly 200 gallons per day and says the property’s existing well and 6,000-gallon septic system would be adequate to meet that need.

Harpswell Coastal Academy, a public charter school for grades five through 12, shut down permanently at the end of the school year after a decade in operation. The Maine Charter School Commission did not renew its charter, citing a variety of concerns.

Merryman purchased the property after voters declined to buy back the formerly town-owned campus in March, then a May auction ended in uncertainty. 

Douglas, who owns Fishmoon Yoga across the street from the campus, attended the Sept. 20 Planning Board meeting. She expressed her approval of the project after seeking clarification about likely vehicle traffic and urging the board to continue its careful stewardship of Harpswell’s overall development.

“I actually think office (space) is a pretty good use for the building,” she said. “I welcome that.”

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