Credit union seeks zoning change to unload building


WESTBROOK — Casco Federal Credit Union President and Chief Executive Officer James Stone thinks the building the credit union is trying to sell at 35 Cumberland St. is a perfect for a dentist office, florist or mixed use space.

The problem is the zone the building is in – Industrial Park District – does not allow such uses. The City Center District does, however, and Stone is hoping to get City Council approval to switch the parcel to that zone.

Sappi, whose property abuts the credit union lot, is opposed to a zone change.

Originally built in 1984 as the the credit union for the S.D. Warren mill, the building has been home to a series of financial institutions.  Casco Federal Credit Union set up a location in the building in 2006, replacing Evergreen Federal Credit Union. Casco closed the branch at the end of 2017, saying access into and out of the lot was difficult for customers. Some credit union employees, including those in the marketing and mortgage departments, still work out of the space.

“We have decided to forego that particular property, but we are looking at other sites in Westbrook. We do want to continue to be in Westbrook, but just not in this particular location,” Stone said at a July 3 Planning Board workshop. He can’t move forward with that plan, he said, until the Cumberland Street building is sold.

Casco Federal Credit Union has been trying to sell the building through Roxane Cole Commercial Real Estate for the last six months.

“We had an opportunity to look at a dentist using it, but that is not allowed in that particular industrial zone. We’ve had an opportunity for another service business with someone who wanted to have the business in the main part of the building and live upstairs, which is allowed in the CCD district but not in the industrial zone,” he said.

The 3,616-square-foot building, listed for $499,000, includes a lobby and offices on the first floor and a meeting room and offices on the second floor, with a kitchenette and storage in the basement. The building was home to the United Steelworkers Union Local 1069, which moved out this fall, and Northern Benefits, which was in the midst of relocating last week.

The property sits a stone’s throw from the City Center District, which begins across the street and continues west along most of the Main Street/William Clarke Drive corridors.

Barry Stemm of Sappi’s engineering department outlined the mill’s opposition in an email sent to City Planner Jennie Franceschi, City Administrator Jerre Bryant and Economic Development Director Dan Stevenson The credit union property, he points out, is close to a lot of mill uses that “are not compatible” with the uses in the City Center District.

Stemm said mill activity could get closer to the 35 Cumberland St, location soon, as the mill is set to take over the old Westbrook firehouse next door, a property the fire department no longer uses and one that will, because of that, revert to use by the mill.

“We want to be good neighbors to whoever purchases the property at 35 Cumberland St.  However, if the city allows this incompatible zoning change it will create problems because this is an industrial area, not an area for 24-hour residential occupancy, a potential day care, or other similar uses that could be allowed if this zoning is changed,” Stemm said.

Stone said he understands Sappi’s opposition. “They want to keep it industrial. If you change the zoning, what ends up there may not be compatible with them and could have some issues there,” he said.

Getting the Planning Board to support the zone change request is only the first step in the process.

Planning Board Chairman Ed Reidman said once it comes before the Planning Board at an official meeting, the group will make a recommendation to the council, but it will be the councilors who will decide if the change is made or not.

A public hearing on the zone change will take place at the planning board’s Aug. 7 meeting.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or or on Twitter @mkelleynews

Casco Federal Credit Union is looking to sell the building it owns at 35 Cumberland St., but has had a hard time doing so based on the uses allowed in the zoning there.

Sappi could soon take over the old Cumberland Street fire station, which is next to a property owned by Casco Federal Credit Union.