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Council open to zoning flexibility in exchange for easement

By Kendra Caruso | Aug 14, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso Paul Naron's Front Street property on Aug. 6.

Belfast — City officials appear to have made some headway in talks with developer Paul Naron about a permanent easement across two of his Front Street properties for the Harbor Walk.

At its Aug. 6 meeting, councilors discussed new negotiations with Naron’s attorney, Joe Baiungo. Prior to the meeting, Naron requested an expansion of approved uses of the properties from Code and Planning Director Wayne Marshall in exchange for the easement.

The two properties at 7 and 15 Front St. fall under contract rezoning and uses must be approved by the City Council in addition to the Planning Board. To date, negotiations have stalled as the city sought a permanent easement for the Harbor Walk that Naron refused to give.

Marshall was in talks with City Attorney Bill Kelly about denying Naron’s approvals when Baiungo reached out via email, suggesting a new agreement. Marshall reviewed the request and after some clarifications with Naron, presented the new draft contract rezoning agreement to the council.

The new agreement allows Naron to retain the privileges from previous negotiations, which include an extended wharf and decreased number of parking spaces than would typically be required.

In addition, Naron now will be permitted to make minor exterior design changes, construct up to four residential units, gain a view easement and use some of the space for a marijuana dispensary without going back to the Planning Board.

Naron previously stated he intends to use the properties as restaurants.

“I’ve just tried to simplify it conceptually, which is essentially the city is going to be approving something of a certain size and a certain impact down there,” Baiungo said. “And so long as any future use that happens with that … size scope he wouldn’t have to come back through contract rezoning. ”

Councilors expressed relief that negotiations appear to be improving and expressed gratitude to Baiungo for working with the City Council on Naron’s behalf. Councilor Mike Hurley quoted directly from the draft and said, “I’m really savoring point number one: ‘We’ll grant you the permanent easement as requested.’ I think the rest of this framework is really good.”

The council's only apprehension was about the view easement, which would prevent the city from allowing construction that would restrict views of the bay in front of Naron’s properties.

The primary concern was about saving existing trees and limiting the city's storage building options. However, councilors still expressed confidence that an agreement can be reached.

Councilor Neal Harkness said the new requests seem reasonable to him and that  negotiations will be beneficial for both parties.

“It all sounds reasonable to me and I want to thank you, Joe, for your work on this," he said. "And thank you Paul … as well as our city staff and Councilor Dean for the work on this. As far as I’m concerned, I’m absolutely eager to use this as a basis for moving forward to see if we can come to an agreement for everyone.”


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Comments (3)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | Aug 15, 2019 10:28

This story should have ran about a week ago, just after the Tuesday Council meeting. In case you haven't noticed, the existing structure of Consumer Fuels is an eyesore and anything would be an improvement. Any prudent businessman, of which Paul Naron is, wants to keep his options open because nobody knows what the future economic environment will bring. All the citizens of Belfast should be jumping with joy that this deal seems solid, since the underlying assessed value, including the expanded marina will probably quadruple, providing significantly more property tax revenue leading to a lower mill rate in the future. Nothing wrong with condos on the 2nd floor of the French & Webb building, which will probably be going for over $ 500k with an expansion of the Farmers' market in the lower level. The Consumer Fuels building will most likely have the primary restaurant. Whatever happens with these properties must be governed by the "highest and best use" concept, not "what we want" there. If you want to see a train wreck in the making, watch what the City does with it's one acre parcel known as "Belfast Yards" next to the Front Street Pub. If the City doesn't let market forces dictate what should be built, it will end up being a white elephant.

Posted by: EDWIN (BUD) NESBIT | Aug 15, 2019 08:50

Is this really what we want by the Harbor Walk?

Posted by: Anne k Saggese | Aug 14, 2019 22:48

How in the world did it go from restaurants to condos and a pot dispensary?

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