BELFAST, Maine — The City Council has started the process for the design and construction of a docking area for the city’s commercial fishermen and requiring the owners of the former Stinson Canning factory to remove the eyesore from the waterfront.
“We were hoping progress would be made on both, but nothing has been done,” city planner Wayne Marshall said Wednesday. “We want them to tear it down and we want to get going on the fishermen’s dock.”
Marshall said both the fishermen’s dock and the crumbling factory were intertwined because they are part of the Wakeag Landing project that failed to materialize two years ago. The factory is part of the entire Stinson complex, and the developers had promised the float in return for removing moorings from the area in front of the complex so they could install pilings.
The council approved the Wakeag Landing project, which aimed at converting the Stinson site and buildings into a mixed use residential-commercial-marina facility in 2005. However, by the next summer its ownership entity, Belfast Bridge LLC, ceased work on the $12 million development and attempted to sell the property.
A few potential buyers came forward over the years, but none could reach a deal. In the meantime, the old factory continued to deteriorate and has become a target of vandals and a hangout for vagrants. Belfast Bridge LLC has managed to lease the Stinson warehouse for boat storage.
Marshall said he had remained in contact with the property owners through their attorneys, repeatedly advising them of the city’s concerns about the condition of the property. He said the company should have done something by January but the city decided against pressing the issue to give them time to sell the property.
“Unfortunately, there has been little evidence that a sale will be completed,” Marshall noted in his latest letter. “Further, the state of the property continues to deteriorate and many of the contract agreements, particularly with respect to the waterfront, have not happened.”
Marshall went on to note that the “present condition of the property is unacceptable” and asked the owners to submit a plan by the first of next month outlining how they intend to remove the factory and secure the property.
“City staff has observed persons climbing on the unsecured superstructure and that windows and doors on the unused buildings are broken. The site is very unkempt and appears to be subject to vandalism,” Marshall wrote.
As part of the approval process, Belfast Bridge LLC provided a $200,000 letter of credit for construction of the commercial fishermen dock and the installation of temporary floats until the job is completed. Six floats were placed three years ago, but they were never removed over the winter and are now unusable. Marshall said the city intends to use the $200,000 to build the promised dock. Design should begin this fall with construction taking place next spring. Belfast Bridge will have to replace the floats, he said.
“I believe it is critical that the city work to construct this improvement so the former mooring owners who have been displaced by the marine construction done to date can be made whole,” Marshall said. “Clearly the proposed project has not gone forward as was initially proposed, and the current economic climate appears to be weighing heavily on any likelihood that redevelopment of the site will begin soon.”