In front of journalists and city officials this morning, city councilor and Community Development Committee (CDC) chair Cheryl Leeman and Olympia Companies CEO Kevin Mahaney announced that The Olympia Companies' negotiations with the city to develop the Maine State Pier are ending.
The primary bone of contention is the title to the sumberged lands under and around the Maine State Pier. The city and the state cannot agree on ownership and leasing rights to said lands, and as a result, Olympia's lawyers have advised the developers to back out -- the potential financial obligations were "not risk that we felt comfortable moving forward with," Mahaney said.
Now, the council has to decide whether to approach (tail between legs, much?) Ocean Properties, the developer that was shunned in favor of Olympia, or to re-open the Request For Proposals process.
The city plans to sue the state to establish ownership of the submerged lands; that process is expected to take approximately 12-18 months. If the state owns the land, the city is limited to entering into 30-year leases. If the city owns it, it could enter into the 75-year lease that Olympia was pushing for. Ocean Properties has said it wouldn't mind a 30-year lease.
Both Leeman and Mahaney said they found out about the most recent stumbling block -- a letter from Attorney General Steve Rowe that restated the state's unwillingness to name Portland as owner of the submerged lands -- within the last week. However, the letter is dated October 14, a few weeks before a certain big day, on which pier considerations were a factor. Strange?
The city council is expected to officially end the negotiations (an action that the CDC recommended last night) at its meeting on Monday. The new councilors will be sworn in on December 1. It's unclear whether or not brand-new councilor Dory Waxman, who was outspoken on the pier issue and formerly worked as a community liason for Ocean Properties, will recuse herself from future OP-related pier decisions.