City in end stages of easement agreement with Naron

By Kendra Caruso | Sep 09, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso One of Paul Naron's Front Street properties overlooking the Harbor.

Belfast — After a lengthy discussion, the City Council voted to approve an initial agreement that would procure a permanent easement for the city's Harbor Walk over Paul Naron’s Front Street properties.

Naron was at the Sept. 3 meeting when councilors discussed easement terms with his attorney Joe Baiungo, but the developer did not speak.

There was no shortage of arguments, compromises and excitement. Naron on several occasions waved his arms in frustration and left the room.

Councilors Neal Harkness and Eric Sanders were positive about the deal and were willing to approve both old and new agreement terms.

However, Councilor Mary Mortier said she was concerned about building height on the properties. A new stipulation in the agreement removes Naron’s properties from contract rezoning and allows him to follow city ordinances for the Waterfront Mixed Use district.

That would allow him to increase the height of his buildings to 35 feet. Mortier said she is concerned that it might impede existing views from properties sited behind Naron's.

Harkness was quick to defend the change, referencing other properties that already are at, or around, 35 feet high on the waterfront.

The former French & Webb building on his property currently stands at almost 35 feet, according to Naron.

“If 35 feet is too high for that property on the shore, then it’s too high for other properties on the shore,” Harkness said. “ … I think one of the things we’re seeing here … is that Mr. Naron feels singled out — that he’s not going to be allowed to build a building as big as we allow Nautilus to be, sitting right on the waterfront.”

If Naron wants to expand in any way beyond the Waterfront Mixed Use ordinance, he will be required to go through contract rezoning.

Director of Codes and Planning Wayne Marshall advised councilors to look closely at each term included in the agreement before making a decision. Then, he sparked a last-minute dispute when he suggested excluding term 5 because a new term, 7, was added.

Baiungo reminded councilors that without approval of every agreement term, Naron was not interested in granting the city a permanent easement across his properties. He said Marshall opposes the terms and was trying to take previously agreed items away.

“I don’t want this, now, to be an opportunity to take back some of the things that I understood we were fine with previously,” Baiungo said. “ … I think Mr. Marshall’s upset that we’ve done something — that the council is doing something — that he doesn’t like and now he’s backtracking about what I understood us to have an agreement on.”

The seventh term puts Naron's properties in the Waterfront Mixed Use district. The fifth term defines seating capacity and the type of retail business allowed; it allows a multipurpose retail space and expansion up to 20,000 square feet without contract rezoning, and grants the option to create four residential units.

Marshall said the prior agreement is more limiting than term 7 and might contradict it. Baiungo and councilors agreed to create wording that includes, but is not limited to, the terms previously outlined.

Other benefits Naron will receive are a view easement, a 64-parking-space minimum, extension of his dock beyond the allotted wharf line to create 85 to 90 slips, and a driveway easement over city land to his property.

Councilors approved the initial terms but will vote on a first reading in October. Naron stood up and waved his hands at the announcement, then left the meeting after the vote.

 

Comments (2)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | Sep 10, 2019 03:26

Director of Codes and Planning Wayne Marshall came within a whisker of scuttling this deal after months of back and forth with the City, but cooler heads prevailed, that being Neal Harkness and Eric Sanders. Mike Hurley was absent, but probably would have agreed to go forward to draft a final deal. The City got what it wanted all along, the permanent easement for the Harborwalk. Naron wanted some flexibility for possible future uses, but didn't want to go back thru the arduous contract zoning process. This project, when completed, is going to be the downtown's economic engine for decades to come. Now, if the City can do something about McCrum's ugly building on Front Street, aka "The Blue Monster", that part of downtown will finally realize its' potential.



Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Sep 09, 2019 16:16

Parking is going to become a real issue in downtown Belfast.  To think 10 years ago people complained about business owners parking in front of their stores!  LOL



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