Councilors delay decision on High Street property consent agreement

Concerns raised by neighbor about potential flooding
By Ben Holbrook | Nov 14, 2012

Belfast — A decision about the city's entering into a consent agreement with Nationstar Mortgage to address zoning violations at a High Street property was delayed after councilors were made aware of flooding concerns voiced by an abutting neighbor.

Abutting property owner Michelle Morrow expressed the concern that a proposal to build a driveway across property at 360 High St. owned by Judith Kennedy will result in flooding on Morrow's property.

Belfast Code Enforcement Officer Tod Rosenberg explained in a memo that the city is seeking a consent agreement with Nationstar because of zoning violations that occurred at a 358 High St. property. As noted by Rosenberg, the zoning violations referred to the fact that a duplex on the 358 High St. property encroached on the property lot at 360 High St., and there was no road access or adequate available parking at the 358 High St. property.

The issue dates back to 2003, when Sean and Jennifer Weed purchased the two adjacent property lots located at 358 and 360 High St. After purchasing the property, the couple planned to construct a duplex on the 358 High St. property. However, because the property located at 358 High St. lacked road frontage, the couple instead proposed joining the two lots as one.

Eventually the duplex was constructed, but before the two lots were merged as one by deed, the Weeds divorced and the properties fell into foreclosure.

As a result, Kennedy, who is attempting to sell her property this month, agreed to grant an easement across her property to Nationstar to allow the installation of a driveway. However, Morrow, who abuts the properties, is concerned the driveway will lack adequate drainage.

Camden Attorney Paul Gibbons, who spoke on behalf of Morrow, said the matter boils down to the issue of water.

“The problem is water; it’s a threat to our property,” Gibbons said. “There are two flows of water right between the properties.”

Gibbons said he and his client want to work with the city to resolve the issue, but that they would “not allow this city to put our property in jeopardy.”

Rosenberg refuted the claim that the property is threatened by the water that flows through the area, noting that the area, which is designated a drainage swale, is a little “moist.”

In addition to his assessment of the drainage in the area, Rosenberg also explained that 15-inch culverts would be installed, which would be more than adequate to handle the water flow through the area. Rosenberg also said that there is adequate room on the property to ditch alongside the driveway to make sure the water flows where it should.

Gibbons requested councilors to delay a decision regarding the consent agreement for two weeks in order to give him time to hire a consultant to look at the property and determine if the driveway would result in any issues. However, Nationstar attorney Nate Huckel-Bauer said a two-week delay would result in the closing's being pushed back by a month. He noted that neighbors have known about the proposal for the properties for a significant amount of time and Nationstar is ready to move ahead to address the zoning issues.

“Nationstar is ready to get the property back in compliance,” Huckel-Bauer said.

The terms of the consent agreement require Nationstar pay the city $3,000 in lieu of prosecution regarding the zoning violations, and to address the zoning violations. In addition, the agreement outlines 13 specific conditions that range from creating additional parking to how the existing duplex on Lot 32A can or cannot be modified.

Councilor Mike Hurley then asked if it is possible to approve the consent agreement on the condition that the flooding concerns are addressed. Councilors Marina Delune, Roger Lee and Eric Sanders all expressed concern about making a decision at the meeting, citing their lack of expertise in regard to the issue.

Lee suggested delaying a decision to Thursday, Nov. 15, when councilors have a workshop scheduled. He noted that would give Gibbons time to have an engineer look at the property and determine if there would be flooding issues. However, Lee also cautioned that the issue must be resolved by the Nov. 15 date.

Councilors unanimously approved delaying a decision, with Councilor Nancy Hamilton absent. The date for a ruling on the consent agreement was changed to Tuesday, Nov. 18 during the regularly scheduled city council meeting.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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