YORK, Maine — The town has issued four building permits to Spiro Paras for work to be conducted at his family’s former pizzeria building on Railroad Avenue — first steps that are leaving the code enforcement office “cautiously optimistic” that movement is afoot to resolve an almost decade-long stalemate.
For his part, Paras said in a prepared statement that “we would be pleased to try to open a restaurant this summer,” although he still has not received a necessary permit from the state fire marshal’s office to deal with life safety issues in the building.
The town permits are for work considered minor in nature — repair a portion of the roof, pour a concrete floor in the main building on the property, construct a foundation wall between the main building and the attached “Temple of Knowledge” building, and build a fire wall between the main building and the kitchen area.
“Would we have liked to see him take out a permit for all the work at the same time? Sure,” said Code Enforcement Officer Amber Harrison. “But I see this as a step in the right direction, getting the building in a position to be rented again. I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Harrison described the work Paras will be doing as “structural” in nature, while the state fire marshal’s office is concerned with making sure the building passes life safety codes. Richard McCarthy, assistant state fire marshal, said this would include fire alarms, smoke detectors, fire exits and the like. “We’re not so much interested in whether someone uses a 2 by 4, or a 2 by 10. That’s the job of the local code office.”
The town has been in a stalemate with Paras and parents Eleni and Ernest Paras for most of the last decade. During this time, the former Paras Pizza building and the attached, one-story Temple of Knowledge building has largely been vacant. Paras has long claimed that the town has been unreasonable and discriminatory in its dealings with him, while the town claims Paras has been intransigent and in the past has done work without a permit. A court case the town filed against Paras and his parents remains pending.
Paras said in his statement that issuance of the permits is a positive sign.
“Yes, we are very pleased to have permits to build the restaurant. It will be a challenge to be open for this summer but I, Spiro Paras, will continue to work tirelessly and without recompense towards this goal,” he said. “We would like to thank the [t]own of York for the complete turnabout.”
But Paras still needs that state permit, and McCarthy said to date he has not seen final plans. The building cannot be opened without a permit from his office. Paras came to the fire marshal’s office in Augusta one day several weeks ago, said McCarthy, and spoke with an employee there. “He was told what he needed to provide us. They started going around and around, and in the end he had to be escorted from the building.”
Paras said he is glad to provide the necessary information. He is working with former York CEO and now consultant Tim DeCoteau to address all concerns, and is also working with “a life safety 101 specialist” as well.
“I’ve asked for a complete and sufficient list needed to get a permit. Instead we’ve receive some requests which the office was unwilling to label a ‘complete list,’ which I interpret to mean we may be required to return there several times,” he said. “I have no problem doing this and will work diligently to reestablish income to our building after some nine years.”
But Paras is concerned about what he sees as a new threat, not from the town but from unnamed “unscrupulous” people who want to buy the building — which he said unequivocally is not for sale.
“Our … properties have great value and we have no intention to sell nor financial need,” he said. He said recent efforts to “separate” the Parases from their properties, therefore, “could only be accomplished by unscrupulous methods. I do expect that,” he said. He would provide no further clarification about who these people are.
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