BELFAST — After an approximately two-year hiatus the City Council once again brought up the discussion of how to properly develop the city-owned Belfast Yards property located at 45 Front St.

The over one-acre parcel has been a topic of discussion on and off for several years, but no definitive plan has yet been put in place on how to develop the property.

While no plan was adopted at the board’s Aug. 16 meeting, ideas for what to do were discussed at some length.

The conversation began with a discussion of an 18-point plan submitted to the council by Councilor Mike Hurley, a copy of which he provided to The Republican Journal following the meeting.

In the plan, Hurley said that what is missing from the Belfast waterfront are small property owners, businesses, offices and residences. He also noted that the waterfront already has several large property owners who own the majority of the waterfront space.

Hurley’s plan outlined the possibility of 20 or so smaller adjoined buildings that would contain small businesses, residences or organizations.

As part of Hurley’s plan, he recommends that the city put out a request for proposals regarding development of the space.

Hurley noted that Belfast Yards presents a historic opportunity to transform the waterfront.

During the discussion Aug. 16, Mayor Eric Sanders said the project has been on the city’s radar for around seven years. He said in past discussions, the council has come up with a semi-consensus on what to do with the property, and then any further discussion ends up going under the rug. He said the city has a once-in-a-century opportunity with the project and he felt that now was a good time to bring it back before the council.

Councilor Neal Harkness said he thought about the project recently when he was going around circulating his petition to run again for his council seat. He said he wanted to advance the discussion and get a sense of where the council wants to go with the project. While he knows where Hurley stands on the project, he said he is not sure where the other councilors are at.

Councilor Paul Dean asked to have Hurley’s letter entered into the record and that he likes the idea of selling small lots in the property. He said he likes the idea of small business ownership on the waterfront as it would give more people the opportunity to be down on the waterfront.

Councilor Brenda Bonneville said she had concerns about the cost. She said for a small business owner, the idea of developing a property on the waterfront seems financially daunting.

Harkness responded that the value for the property could be set at whatever the city wants, suggesting that the city could control the cost initially to make it attractive for small businesses.

Hurley then reiterated several of the points in his written proposal. He told the council that what Belfast has on its waterfront is bizarre compared to other waterfront communities in that four owners own 90% or more of the available commercial space. He said the city is missing the ability to have small businesses and residences on the waterfront.

Councilor Mary Mortier outlined several concerns she had regarding the land. First, she said, she didn’t think the property would fit 20 businesses, suggesting the number would be lower. She also noted that infrastructure for the land would need to be dealt with. She said she was not against small property owners on the parcel, but she wanted the project to be sustainable and bring something of value to taxpayers.

Mortier said there was a part of her that wanted to sit tight and wait another couple of months regarding any development to see what will happen with other properties along the waterfront. She said some things have changed over the last couple of years since the city last discussed the matter.

Planning and Code Director Bub Fournier reminded the council that the property is within the floodplain, meaning that the first floor of a property would not be retail space.

He said he thinks the city needs to make sure that, whatever plan they come up with, they are able to leverage the Harborwalk as part of the plan. He also reminded the council that the property is zoned as waterfront mixed-use, meaning the city can do just about anything it wants with the property.

In other matters the council:

  • Spent a significant portion of time discussing the city’s tree inventory and the tree removal priority list.
  • Approved a request from Police Chief Robert Cormier to purchase a 2021 Ford Police Utility AWD hybrid from Colonial Municipal Group for $28,885, which includes a trade-in valued at $5,300.
  • Approved a request from the Public Works Department to purchase a 2022 GMC Sierra 3500 pickup truck with a plow from O’Connor GMC for $39,272; the price includes a trade-in valued at $15,000.
  • Approved a request from the Parks and Recreation Department to accept a facility use request submitted by Waldo County Bounty to set up a give-and-take table at Wales Park.
  • Approved a request to confirm Quinten Roberts as a per diem/call member, EMT/firefighter for the Belfast Fire and Ambulance Department.
  • Approved a request to accept a bid by Discount Asphalt Paving Co. in the amount of $32,336 for paving the parking lots surrounding the Police Station.