City officials and developer Paul Naron remain at odds over long-term rights to the Harbor Walk waterfront walking path.

After a failed negotiation earlier this month, Naron left a second executive session with the City Council and city staff members Feb. 26 apparently no closer to an agreement.

"I give this about a 2-percent chance," he said during a stretch of the 90-minute session when he and several supporters waited in the hall outside the Council Chambers and city officials deliberated within.

"Miracles do happen," he said. "But I might just walk."

During the 90-minute session on Tuesday, the council alternated between deliberating privately and bringing in Naron to negotiate. Naron had invited several supporters who came believing that they could accompany him in the closed-door talks, but all except real estate broker Michael Cunning, who was with Naron at the first meeting, were barred from the room during the executive session.

At the first meeting between the council and Naron Feb. 5, it was revealed that the city is withholding final approval of Naron's plans to redevelop properties at 7 and 15 Front St. until Naron grants a permanent easement for the Harbor Walk, which crosses through both properties.

Naron, who owns United Farmers Market, is using the walkway as a bargaining chip of his own, though speaking on Feb. 28, he said this was more in reaction to the city's unyielding demand.

He said the city has been flexible on some aspects of his plans for the property, including a major reduction in his parking requirements. Previously, he said he offered the city a 20-year lease for the Harbor Walk crossing at $1 per year but was turned down.

Naron said he isn't holding out for money or trying to preserve the value of the land for a future sale, but he needs to keep his options open in case he has to change course from his current plan.

"If that doesn't work out, what am I left with?" he said. "They say come back, but it's like coming back with nothing in your hand."

Because of their location, both properties are subject to contract rezoning, a system that allows a developer to propose a wider range of uses than would be permitted in the surrounding zoning district, while giving the City Council final authority to approve or deny any plan. Terms are set forth in a contract that is unique to the property and may be amended at any time by agreement of the city and property owner.

In Belfast the approach has mostly been reserved for unusual properties like the Crosby Center, the former Pierce School and Front Street Shipyard.

Naron's property at 15 Front St. was formerly owned by Consumer Fuels and used for coal storage in the past. The building at 7 Front St. was last owned by French & Webb boat builders and was used as a workshop. While contract rezoning has been in place for years, it became relevant only after Naron bought the properties and proposed changes.

When the Harbor Walk was built in 2013, the two properties had different owners and the walkway was routed around them on Front Street. Naron opened a more direct route to the public on his own terms shortly after he bought 15 Front St. in 2017. In the current negotiations, he has pointed to this act as evidence that he has no intention of keeping the public out.

City Councilor Mike Hurley, speaking on March 1, said the city's position isn't specific to Naron, whom, he said, the city strongly supports. The hard stance, he said, is necessary to protect public waterfront access for the long term.

"Often in history you don't get to pick when a crucial moment comes," Hurley said. "That crucial moment is now. We're here. Paul's here. Now is the time to have that discussion, and we're having it."

At the end of Tuesday's meeting, Naron said he wasn't any closer to reaching a deal with the city and didn't know what would happen next.

"I'm trying not to get into an adversarial position with these guys," he said "When you have a discussion with somebody, a discussion is usually two ways, and I don't know if it is at this point."