The City Council further discussed the permanent easement it is seeking across Paul Naron’s land to secure open access to the Harbor Walk. Naron, who owns two properties at 7 and 15 Front St., was not in attendance while his lawyer, Joe Baiungo, discussed legal matters with councilors June 18.

Councilors and the mayor expressed concern about the effect on local businesses of not having a permanent public access easement across the two Naron-owned properties.

“If the permit were revoked, for access to the waterway, then the businesses would be forced to close and I think that that is a terrible position for the city to be in …. I don’t want any business to have to close," Mayor Samantha Paradis said. "Every business is important in our city to the vibrancy of our economy and so I just feel like that is a risk that makes me feel uncomfortable.”

Councilors said there is a need for a long-term solution for public access through both properties. Councilor Neal Harkness said councilors must consider future uses and owners of the properties.

“We don’t make a five-year decision on city property, we make a 50-year decision, we make a 100-year decision," he said.

"So, that’s great that Paul has no intention to sell, but unless he has an intention to live forever, at some point some council is going to be sitting here dealing with a successor who might be his family, it might be someone who shares his beliefs on this issue, it might be somebody who is entirely hostile to this sort of thing,” Harkness said.

Baiungo argued the City Council would lose in a court fight seeking a permanent easement. As well, he said, seeking permanent access through Naron’s properties would fall under eminent domain, which would allow the city to acquire the property after paying compensation for public access.

“I think the underlying assumption here by the council is that it’s going to get a permanent easement other than voluntarily from Mr. Naron and I’m telling you it’s my opinion you’re not. That if we end up litigating it, the city cannot do, legally, what it’s trying to do right now … you are, by act, taking real estate. This is eminent domain by a different name,” Baiungo said.

The attorney assured councilors multiple times that Naron has no intention of selling the properties in the foreseeable future. But the properties remain listed for sale through Worth Real Estate in Belfast for $3.5 million, the agency confirmed this week.

Baiungo did not respond to a message seeking further comment.

Naron said he is currently trying to work out a solution with the town. He said it’s a tough situation and he is unsure what he is going to do.

“All I’m guaranteeing is, I’m not guaranteeing anything. We’re trying to work positively with the city to do nice stuff for the town,” Naron said.

City Manager Joe Slocum said Belfast's city attorney advised the city that it is well within its rights to seek a permanent easement across Naron’s properties. Slocum said he hopes Naron and the city can come to an agreement outside court because Naron has always been a positive citizen who has contributed much to the community.

Councilors decided to meet with city attorney Bill Kelly before discussing the issue further.