GORHAM – Goodwill is shifting its warehouse operation to a Gorham facility, with plans for wholesale outlet space ready for business by the end of October.
The charity has been working in cramped warehouse quarters at 1 Diamond St., in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood.
“We’ve outgrown that space,” Michelle Smith, communications manager at Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, said this week.
So, Goodwill recently bought a building on a 15-acre site at 34 Hutcherson Drive in the Gorham Industrial Park and is relocating its warehouse. The Gorham facility also includes offices, but Smith said its headquarters would remain at 353 Cumberland Ave. in Portland.
The Gorham Planning Board on Monday approved Goodwill’s plan to convert 5,000 square feet in the industrial park warehouse into wholesale space and to construct a drive-up aisle and a canopy. The building, with office space and warehouse, contains 35,844 square feet, according to town figures.
The property has an assessed value of $4.2 million. Michael D’Arcangelo, Gorham tax assessor, said Goodwill recorded its acquisition of the property on Aug. 3. But because the sale came after April 1 this year, D’Arcangelo said that Goodwill is required to pay $68,769.70 in property taxes assessed this year.
But the property would likely qualify as tax exempt in the future.
“We stand to lose a significant amount of tax revenue,” D’Arcangelo said.
No one from the public spoke in Monday’s hearing about the proposal.
Goodwill will have about 45 employees at the warehouse.
“We estimate we will hire about five additional staff once we move into the new space,” Smith said. “We have a new sustainability and recycling manager who will oversee our recycling operations and the operation of the outlet store.”
Goodwill also owns and operates a group home on a 26-acre site off Day Road in Gorham for people suffering from brain injuries. Goodwill, which operates 23 residences in Maine, provides services and help for people with disabilities. It generates support from sales of donated items including clothes, shoes, home furnishings and books sold in its retail outlets.
Randy Finamore, senior vice president of retail operations at Goodwill, said Monday the organization has no plans to alter its retail store in the Village Mall on Main Street in downtown Gorham. Its local retail stores also include ones in South Portland and Windham.
According to Gorham tax records, Goodwill’s newly acquired Hutcherson Drive property was previously owned by Foreside Management Co. LLC of Fallbrook, Calif. A former business, The Foreside Co., which sold imported home furnishings, was headquartered in the Gorham building. But in 2008, a finance company acquired possession of its inventory and equipment in warehouse and offices.
“Goodwill has purchased the property,” an agent, Curtis Neufield, who presented its request to Gorham planners, said Monday.
Relocating its warehouse to Gorham affords Goodwill space for bulk sales of items recycled from its retail outlets.
It’s “another way to extend value of donations,” Smith said.
Goodwill hopes to be “fully functional” in its Gorham warehouse by the end of October, according to Smith.
Smith said some of its retail managers would occupy offices at Goodwill’s new Gorham property.
Finamore said Goodwill would explore several options for re-use of its Portland warehouse.
“We will eventually sell it,” Finamore said.
In other Planning Board action, the panel forwarded to the Town Council its recommended requirements to allow a contract zone for a business park in South Gorham.
Developer Hans Hansen requested the contract zone for his 25-acre site at the intersection of South Street and County Road. The Planning Board recommendations and the version the council asked it to review for Hansen’s contract zone would allow convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants, retail stores and office buildings.
Gorham resident Richard Shiers of County Road didn’t oppose the plan, but objected to allowing gas stations because people in the area have private wells for water and are not served by a public sewer. “Gasoline should be omitted,” Shiers said.
Demetria Chadbourne of County Road hoped that the Planning Board recommendations would be a template for other contract zones.
But, the Town Council, which will also hold a public hearing, ultimately will decide on any contract zone.
“What we approve here is a suggestion,” Planning Board Chairman Edward Zelmanow said.
The Planning Board dropped from its Monday agenda requests from Dennis Chadbourne and Albert Frick for contract zones because they were not officially sent to the Planning Board. The Town Council last week sent four additional requests for contract zones to its Ordinance Committee.