Naron erupts at City Council meeting

By Kendra Caruso | Oct 18, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso View of Paul Naron's Front Street properties to be renovated if contract rezoning is approved.

Belfast — It was a swing and a miss Tuesday when the City Council almost acquired a long-sought permanent easement for the Harbor Walk across Paul Naron’s two Front Street properties.

Drama erupted shortly after the beginning of the Oct. 15 meeting, which was supposed to be the last public hearing and final vote on contract rezoning negotiations between Naron and the council.

Naron, who is now legally representing himself, made a passionate statement to councilors, then said it was his birthday and he was going to dinner.

Before leaving, he expressed frustration with Director of Codes and Planning Wayne Marshall’s draft of agreed terms. He handed City Manager Joe Slocum a list of terms he agreed to, but stated that he wouldn’t sign a rezoning contract if the terms were changed.

Marshall said he was confused about why Naron felt that drafted terms had changed from what was already agreed upon. He said the only added term was the use of a crane or forklift for wharf removal during bad weather, as requested by the Harbor Committee.

It was an optional term, to which Naron had previously agreed, for an emergency removal plan.The developer is seeking approval for a dock that could accommodate 85 to 90 boats, extending beyond the currently allowed 200 feet.

Naron stood in the back of the council chambers listening to Marshall briefly, interjected some comments aimed at the council, waved his arms in the air dismissively and walked out.

Slocum thought Naron was confused about the legal jargon. He reiterated the importance of attending meetings to increase communication. “People have got to be around the table for effective communication,” Slocum said.

Councilor Eric Sanders moved to table the vote after expressing confusion over Naron’s statements. Sanders recommended councilors sit down with Naron to discuss how he thinks terms have changed.

Councilor Neal Harkness opposed the motion and expressed frustration about how much work the council and city employees have put into the negotiations. With a red face, he proposed councilors agree to vote on the contract as stated and let Naron decide if he wants to sign it. He suggested that if Naron sells the properties, the council will negotiate new terms with the next owner.

“At this point, I’m not going to be Charlie Brown kicking at the football,” Harkness said.

Councilors voted to exclude the originally agreed-upon view easement after members of the Parks and Recreation Commission expressed apprehension about giving Naron control over city property. This changes the contract and requires another vote at a later council meeting.

On Wednesday, Slocum met with Naron and addressed most of the issues discussed at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Naron expressed concerns over exclusion of the view easement.

Regardless, Slocum said Oct. 16, he was hopeful about further negotiations and he thinks an agreement with Naron is still attainable. The city manager will work to bridge communication between Naron and the City Council so both parties are satisfied and the city can obtain an easement for the Harbor Walk.

“I’m going to try to move quickly to get it in front of City Council,” Slocum said. “Everybody's tired and everybody's frustrated, but I’m going to try to move this along.”

Attempts to reach Naron for comment were unsuccessful.

City Council has been seeking a permanent easement for the city’s Harbor Walk since February. It has been adamant about securing rights to the property to retain complete control over the Harbor Walk.

Previously, Naron was not receptive to granting an easement. His former attorney, Joe Baiungo, argued that it was not legal for the city to tie the easement to permits Naron is seeking on the two business properties.

The city offered Naron reduced parking requirements, a view easement, driveway access over city property, an extended wharf, and zoning allowances that let him make certain building and business changes without going back through contract rezoning.

It is unclear when the City Council will vote on the issue again.

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