Despite zoning, College moves to buy Stowe
Bowdoin College announced plans to purchase the Stowe House
and Inn, a historic inn in downtown Brunswick. Maintaining the existing
appearance of the house, the College would use the inn section of the
structure for student housing.
Housing Bowdoin students at the Stowe Inn is not a new idea.
As explained by Scott Hood, Associate Vice President/Director of Communications
and Public Affairs beginning in the spring of 1999 and then again in the
spring of 2000, when Bowdoin had more students who requested on-campus
housing then was available, Bowdoin leased some rooms in the Stowe Inn.
The bed shortage and the decision to purchase the Stowe
Inn is a function of the current period residential life transition at
Bowdoin. As Bowdoin Vice President for Planning and Development at William
Torrey said, "Essentially it is recognizing [that] with the renovations
of fraternities and dorms we are about 50-60 beds short." Bob Graves,
Director of Residential Life, stated, "Demand [for off campus housing]
has dried up."
Hood explained that the college has leased the property
for the 2001 fall semester, as it has done in some past semesters, in
order to deal with the short-term problem of the current semester. This
year, however, the college also looked into the purchase alternative for
the future and "approached the owners earlier this semester"
Although there is a formal offer from the College for the
purchase of the Stowe Inn (the price is not yet public), Bowdoin "won't
buy it unless the town approves changes to the zoning," added Hood.
The zoning issues concern the uses that are allowed on the
property according to town ordinances.
Brunswick Town Planner Theo Holtwijk said "the majority
of the property is TR-2 (Town Residential 2)," which means it is
used for mostly single-family homes. Holtwijk added that the college would
like the zoning changed to Cu-4 (College Use 4), which is "more geared
towards the needs of the college." Cu-4 zoning would allow the property
to be used for college offices, museums, and residence halls.
In order for requested the changes to be implemented, either
Brunswick's zoning ordinance would need to allow for college residence
halls or an amendment would be need to be made to the Stowe Inn's specific
On August 29, a neighborhood meeting was held to give local
residents a chance to ask questions and hear from representatives of the
Brunswick town government and Bowdoin College. Hood described "people
there [as] really supportive."
It wasn't only the college officials who were feeling optimistic
about the town's reaction.
Holtwijk said, "People don't want to see Federal St.
change; they don't want to see professional buildings up and down street.
The neighbors say [that] the college has done a good job of maintaining
There were, however, some concerns from residents.
"They mainly concerned 'what ifs,' such as, 'What if
the college wanted to knock down a building?'" explained Hood, who
also emphasized that "even if they [Bowdoin] did want to, there would
need to be a process."
Although Hood also noted that there were a few concerns
about the potential for misbehavior of Bowdoin students who live at the
Stowe House, he added that many residents praised the resident students
for their behavior.
Holtwijk said "a number of neighbors [commented on
how] incredibly well behaved the students have been." Torrey said,
"presuming [the sale] goes through, [it will be] largely because
students have been so good. Neighbors say it is a pleasure. If students
had not been so good [Bowdoin] would never have been able to do it. "
Torrey also said "I think our relationship with the
town is very good at the moment, a very mutual respect. We will pay taxes
to the town on the Stowe property." Because of the college's tax-exempt
status, most of the currently owned college property is largely tax exempt.
Research assistance provided by an August 10 Times Record article written by Eric Diamon.