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August 17, 2019

7/3/2019 1:28:00 PM
The Kirsch property: Blessing or curse?
John Doyle

The Kirsch property has come back on the agenda for the Mayor and Council. This property has been on and off the agenda for several years now. There are several issues that surround this property that lead to significant misunderstandings.
Its role in public access has changed over the years. It is important for everyone (who cares about it) to be honest about the importance of that property in context to its ownership.
Some background on its purchase: Town acquired the property in July of 2001 for $350,000. Originally, the Kirsch property was defined as Lots 3 and 4 in that block. The Town then sold Lot 3 to Mit and Maureen Harlan for $120,000 in August 2001.
The Kirsch property is located in a shoreline commercial zone. Lot 3 is all upland with no overwater areas. Lot 4 is mostly overwater (95%) and had a fully intact building. This distinction between the lots is important. Per the shoreline master program, overwater structures must be “water dependent” commercial uses and residential use is prohibited.
The Town’s purchase was justified by the limited public access to the waterfront at the time. In 2001, the only public access was through three undeveloped street-ends on First Street (mostly used for parking) and the boat ramp down under the bridge on Sherman Avenue. It was very limited. The Kirsch property presented an opportunity to develop a waterfront park.
Following a survey by the Parks Commission, the Town priorities became the boardwalk and a waterfront park on the Town’s industrial property adjacent to Pioneer Park. In the meanwhile, the building at the Kirsch site began to deteriorate and the Town decided to remove the building structure and retain the overwater footprint of the floor structure.
Then, the Town was notified by Department of Natural Resources and Charles Hall that the structure encroached into Hall’s DNR lease area by 10 feet. Any redevelopment of the property would require the building footprint to be pulled shoreward by 10 feet. Shortly after the building was removed, the Town enlisted an engineering firm to assess the piling and substructure to give an estimate to renovate the structure for use as an outdoor recreation area. It was estimated it would take several hundred thousand dollars to make the site usable.
This leaves the Town with an awkward dilemma. Those who want to keep the property for the “promised” public access park are looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars for a 3,600 square foot park. Besides, since the Town purchased the property, there is a new 2,000 linear foot boardwalk, a 15,000 square foot waterfront park near the boat launch and three redeveloped street-end parks downtown. There is an abundance of waterfront access.
For those who want to sell the property, the restricted use, loss of property and redevelopment costs put into question the value of the property.
There are no good answers here. Both sides of the debate have little merit. The resale value of the property is questionable and, in a Town with abundant waterfront access, the cost to develop another waterfront park exceeds the marginal improvement value.
My suggestion to the townspeople is let your Mayor and Council decide and support their decision. Also, make up with your neighbor. There are flawed arguments on both sides.

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