Maine State Pier Talks Terminated – Court Battle Likely

By Carol McCracken

Negotiations between Portland’s Community Development Committee (CDC) and The Olympia Cos. to restore the Maine State Pier have been terminated and the city’s attorney admitted that a complaint against the State of Maine will be filed by early January 2009 – all announced at a press conference this morning in the city hall conducted by CDC Chairman Cheryl Leeman and Kevin Mahaney, President of The Olympia Cos.

The stumbling block for Olympia was the state’s continued insistence that the submerged lands around the Pier still belong to the state and not the city of Portland as the City has contended since the beginning of the process.  In a letter dated October 14, 2008, attorney general Steven Rowe reaffirmed this opinion. Along with that assertion would come only a 30 year lease from the state to Olympia Cos. – something that Olympia Cos. simply could not work with. Mahaney reasserted at today’s press conference that his company requires a 70 year lease to be assured of getting its investment back and that anything less than 70 years would be “too risky” for it. The company’s attorneys advised against proceeding with more negotiations with the CDC that would require an investment of millions of dollars on its part until the title matter is resolved.  

Gary Wood, the city’s attorney, also stated that he expects to file a complaint against the state by early January 2009 concerning who owns the title to the submerged land under question. It could take up to 12 to 18 months for the court to decide the case. The city council will not to have to vote on going forward with the lawsuit but will vote on the termination of talks between the two parties at its next meeting, Monday, November 17.

The council will have to decide whether to issue another Request For Proposal or whether or not to “bump up the other developer,” said Chairman Cheryl Leeman.

A press aide to attorney general Steven Rowe did not return a call to MHN regarding the city’s intent to file a lawsuit by January 2009.