May 20, 2019
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Waterfront property at the heart of stormy Belfast standoff is listed for sale

Abigail Curtis | BDN
Abigail Curtis | BDN
A man and his dog walk on Friday morning through the portion of the Harbor Walk in Belfast that is owned by developer Paul Naron.

The standoff between Belfast real estate developer Paul Naron and city officials over access to a popular pedestrian path has led to something new: a listing for the waterfront property that is at the heart of the controversy.

Realtor Mike Cunning of Worth Real Estate Inc. said Thursday that Naron’s listing for 7 and 15 Front St., two adjacent parcels that total 1.8 acres, has been live for about a week. In that time, he’s had one inquiry about the property, which is listed for $3.5 million.

“He will sell, certainly,” Cunning said, describing the current Belfast real estate market as “exuberant” and that Naron’s property is “priced to sell.”

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Cunning said that he will let all prospective buyers know about the ongoing situation with the city that evidently has soured Naron’s desire to convert the two waterfront buildings on the property to multi-use commercial spaces and expand the existing wharf to create a marina.

The catch has been access to the Harbor Walk, which travels from the Armistice Bridge to the Belfast Boat House. Prior to Naron’s purchase of the former Consumer’s Fuel and French & Webb buildings on Front Street, that part of the waterfront was closed to the public and Harbor Walk users had to swerve around the properties using an uphill detour.

Naron opened it to the public two years ago, but city officials want a permanent easement that would guarantee access forever. Because the two properties are subject to contract, or spot, rezoning, the City Council ultimately approves or rejects elements of a zoning plan.

In this case, it has also led to the standoff.

Abigail Curtis | BDN
Abigail Curtis | BDN
Paul Naron.

Naron has offered the city a 20-year lease for access to the trail, at $1 per year, but last month City Manager Joe Slocum said that the lease has a 180-day cancellation clause that can be triggered for any reason or at any time. Officials want more reassurance that the trail will remain open to the public.

The two sides have so far been unable to reach an agreement, and last month Naron said he was considering closing his portion of the trail once again in hopes that city officials will take him seriously.

“I’ll tell [prospective buyers] exactly what’s happened,” Cunning said. “There was an understanding that the walkway would go through. An understanding on both sides, all along, of the value of it. But the way it would be conveyed is the only sticking point.”

Naron, who was traveling, could not be reached Thursday for a comment.

On Friday, Councilor Paul Dean said that he, Slocum and Wayne Marshall, the director of code and planning for the city, had met the previous week with Naron and his attorney to discuss the Harbor Walk and contract rezoning for the property.

“We had a good conversation. We’re expecting a written proposal shortly,” Dean said. “I am encouraged. We will just have to wait and see.”

[A fight that could block Belfast’s Harbor Walk appears to be headed to a nasty showdown]

The real estate listing for the property sticks to its positive features, which include 300 feet of deep water frontage, a marina, a boatbuilding facility and two buildings that total more than 11,000 square feet.

Cunning said he hopes that a solution can be found so that Naron will keep and develop the property.

“What my actual fear is, as a citizen of Belfast, is that the next person that comes in might well be a hotelier with an army of high-priced attorneys that would be perfectly willing to drag this thing out,” he said. “That’s only going to cost taxpayers money. We might well even have an owner down there that we never even see. And the only interaction we will have is with their attorney or representative.”

Related: 1-minute hike: Hills to Sea Trail in Belfast



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