Belfast orders sardine building demolished

Posted Sept. 14, 2009, at 9:16 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — The city has given the owners of the former Stinson Seafoods sardine packing plant three months to tear it down.

City planner Wayne Marshall notified owner Belfast Bridge LLC last week that the city had run out of patience waiting for something to happen and issued a formal order calling for the building’s demolition.

The building is one of four structures on the old Stinson property and is known as “Building No. 1.” Besides demanding demolition of that building, Marshall also ordered the owners to board up windows and remove trash from the other buildings.

“It was our determination that Building No. 1 is structurally unsafe, it is a hazard and that it must be removed by Dec. 15,” Marshall said Monday. “We’ve provided the owner a little more than 90 days to have that building torn down.”

Belfast Bridge LLC had proposed converting the old factory and warehouses into a mixed-use residential-commercial-marina development on the shores of the Passagassawakeag River to be called Wakeag Landing. Development rights were granted under a contract rezoning agreement in 2005, but the $12 million project hardly got off the ground before it started to run into financial problems.

Some demolition work on the factory had taken place before the project shut down three summers ago. Although the owners had a few potential buyers over the next few years, the site appears much the same as it did when work ground to a halt. Vandals and graffiti artists quickly laid claim to the old factory because there were no impediments to keep them from entering.

“The City Council authorized us to send them a letter and it spoke to the intent of having that building torn down,” Marshall said. “We’ve issued them a demolition permit in the past, and we’d be happy to renew that permit at any time.”

Marshall added that his discussions with the owners have been through their attorneys at Rudman-Winchell in Bangor. He said he has yet to receive a reply.

As part of the rezoning contract, Belfast Bridge LLC also pledged to build a dock for the city’s commercial fishermen in exchange for them giving up their moorings in front of the Stinson property. The owners provided the city with a $200,000 letter of credit for construction of the commercial fishermen dock and the installation of temporary floats until the job was completed. Marshall said he received no response from the owners’ attorneys when he advised them the city intended to undertake the project on its own.

“So far there has been no response to our request on the commercial fishermen dock or the floats for the displaced mooring owners,” he said. “We believe that the city has acted in good faith under the terms of the contract. All we are asking is that those terms be achieved so we can move forward.”

Marshall said the issuance of the violation notice was the first step in what could prove to be a lengthy process if the owners fail to remove the building. He said the city might have to take the owners to court or it could remove the building itself and place a lien on the property.

“Clearly the Wakeag Landing project did not proceed as the owner and the city had hoped and intended, and as was stipulated in the contract rezoning agreement,” he said.

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