Developer Paul Naron is hoping signs installed on his waterfront properties near downtown Belfast will encourage the public to support him in his fight to set the terms of a Harbor Walk easement with the city.

Speaking by phone March 27, Naron said he plans to install signs on his properties at 7 and 15 Front St. stating the Harbor Walk is in serious danger of being closed where it crosses his properties and urging residents to attend the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 2.

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 the properties until Naron grants a permanent easement for the Harbor Walk, which crosses through both properties.

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.

Announcing his plans Wednesday to install the signs on his property, he noted he opened the Harbor Walk voluntarily shortly after purchasing the properties. Now, Naron, who also owns United Farmers Market, is using the walkway as a bargaining chip of his own.

“It’ll break my heart if I have to, but I’ll close the Harbor Walk,” he said March 27. “ … I don’t want to do it but they’re treating me like a little baby.”

Naron said he’s been so angered by the request from the city for an easement in perpetuity that he listed both of the Front Street properties for sale earlier this week.

“There’s no open discourse here at all,” Naron said. “ … They’ve basically decided they’ve got me over a barrel.”

Naron said the negotiations have “basically wrecked my life” the past few months as he’s tried to move his development plans for the properties forward. Earlier this year, he received approval from the Harbor Committee, Intown Design Committee and Planning Board to move United Farmers’ Market — currently located on another property owned by Naron on Spring Street — to the new location on Front Street as well as construct two restaurants and a marina. Naron has been unable to proceed because the properties fall under contract rezoning, which requires final approval by the City Council.

Contract rezoning is issued to the owner, not the property, so if Naron sold the property, its new owner would have to come back to the Planning Board, even if the use did not change. The Republican Journal could not immediately locate a real estate listing for either Front Street property.

“I don’t own any other properties in the world,” Naron said, pointing to his creation of United Farmers Market and its success as evidence of his commitment to the city. “They (city councilors) have all their reasons but they’re playing Russian roulette at this point with one of the biggest assets in this town.”

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. 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.

“They’re risking losing that whole side of the town at this point,” Naron said, noting the path from Belfast Boathouse will direct people back to the old walkway behind the buildings if his more direct portion of the path is closed.

City Councilor Mike Hurley previously said the city's position isn't specific to Naron, whom, he said, the city strongly supports. The hard stance on the Harbor Walk easement, 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 previously 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."

No agenda has been posted for the City Council’s next regular meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, at Belfast City Hall, 131 Church St.