Spiro Paras stands outside his family's Railroad Avenue building, where the windows are covered in various permits. The family pizzeria has been shuttered for years as Paras and the town of York have been embroiled in permitting disputes. Credit: Rich Beauchesne | The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — Just a few months ago, Code Enforcement Officer Amber Harrison said she was “ optimistic” that an agreement could be reached between the town and the owners of the Paras Pizza building in York Beach. Now, she said, she’s fairly certain the town’s case against them will go to trial May 30.

“We are working together but we haven’t reached agreement yet,” said Harrison, who declined to get into details of the negotiations, saying they are part of a pending legal matter.

Meanwhile, Spiro Paras, the son and representative of owners Eleni and Ernest Paras, told the Board of Selectmen recently that no such good faith effort has been forthcoming. “There has been no effort by the town to” settle, he said.

[Town, restaurateur hope nearly decade-long feud over pizza parlor is ending]

This was reinforced by land use consultant Tim DeCoteau, hired by the Paras family, who said that “three-fourths of the time the Paras family had to do something to correct violations, they couldn’t get permits to work” from the town.

“If you want the Paras family to follow rules, the town code enforcement office has to follow the rules, too,” he said at a recent selectmen’s meeting.

The York District Court trial on May 30 will be to hear the merits of the town’s “80K” complaint against the Parases, filed in 2017. These complaints are filed when a municipality has been unsuccessful in land-use violation negotiations.

[Lawyer wants out of contentious pizza shop dispute]

Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz has made it clear to both parties he wants to see a mutual resolution to the complaint. To that end, said Harrison, “we’ve been working back and forth on this for quite a while.” DeCoteau is representing the Paras family with the town.

According to Harrison, she and town attorney Dan Murphy met several weeks ago with DeCoteau and Eleni Paras; and since then Murphy has met separately with DeCoteau and Spiro Paras.

The building includes a street level floor as well as several apartments to the rear. Paras has said he plans to open a pizzeria with entrances on Bay Street and on the sides of the building, and expand later to the Railroad Avenue storefront portion of the building.

[After a decade of permitting disputes, town ‘optimistic’ family pizza shop can be reopened]

The state fire marshal’s office has issued a partial permit for all parts of the building except the restaurant, said Harrison. “We have still not received a complete, stamped plan. There are pieces coming in, but we’re looking for a complete packet that addresses the life safety issues,” she said.

Meanwhile, 2019 marks the 10th year that Paras and his parents have been running into issues with what he has long called an unjust town hall that is trying to run the family out of town.

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“This has to come to an end,” Spiro Paras told selectmen. “You can never take your eyes off the town. This is a criminally corrupt town government, and you continue to sue us.”

He told selectmen May 13 he and his parents have put forth a “reasonable settlement agreement,” but the town refuses to respond or to submit a counter-proposal. A counter-offer from the town was not sent until three days later, on May 16. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been active talks, Harrison said. The proposal was insufficient to meet the town’s requirements, she said. “But we’ve been going back and forth on those items” ever since.

[York pizzeria remains closed as permitting dispute drags on]

According to Harrison, Judge Moskowitz has two motions before him prior to the start of the trial. He will review the deed to the property “to make sure there aren’t any lingering issues.” And he has been asked to go on a tour of the property first. Whether that would happen immediately, whether he would decline the motion, or set up a visit for another date and delay the trial start is uncertain.

In the meantime, said Harrison, “it would be great if we could reach settlement rather than go to trial.”

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