No decision on city-owned McNasby site

October 25, 1994|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,Sun Staff Writer

The fate of the McNasby Oyster Co. building in Eastport was put before the City Council again last night and again the issue was put on hold indefinitely.

The council is trying to negotiate a lease to continue seafood processing in the vacant building, which the city bought five years ago and tried to convert into a money-making seafood cooperative. The city continues to pay a $4,700-a-month lease on the property at 723 2nd St.

During an hourlong closed session last night, council members said, they heard three proposals for new business in the building, including one to establish a restaurant and microbrewery.

The three prospective tenants are Eastport Seafood Corp., Portland Lobster Co. and Chesapeake Management Co., said Jonathan A. Hodgson, a former city attorney who has been retained by the city to negotiate a lease for the building.

The council voted last month to continue seafood processing in the city-owned property. But the newest bid by William Fockler, president of Chesapeake Management, would turn the building into an eatery with a microbrewery, a proposal that was dismissed outright by several city council members.

"I pitched it directly in the trash," said Ward 7 Councilwoman M. Theresa DeGraff, a Republican.

"It was dismissed mainly out of zoning considerations," added Ward 5 Councilman Carl O. Snowden, a Democrat.

The city bought the property in 1989, and then leased it to the Maryland Watermen's Cooperative, which was to have operated a seafood processing plant as well as a wholesale and retail business.

The project was beset by delays in getting the proper permits and by mismanagement. The watermen closed their business in February.

Now one of the tenants from that failed cooperative wants to come back and run the operation. Doug Orr, vice president of Eastport Seafood, said the city made a scapegoat of him when the cooperative went under, and he wants a crack at running the old oyster building.

Eastport Seafood relocated to Grasonville after its eviction from the Annapolis building.

Some council members say Eastport's bid is more attractive than the pitch by Annapolis-based Portland Lobster because Eastport's managers would begin paying rent immediately.

The city was negotiating a lease with Portland Lobster, but earlier this fall the council expressed reservations about a preliminary agreement that would have deferred rent payments for nine months and required the city to continue to subsidize the property for several more years.

In other business last night, the council approved a measure to delay a new requirement that all city employees work 40 hours per week instead of the current 35 hours.

The City Council approved the longer work-week earlier this month, but last night's action sends it back to the Civil Service Board for more study.

The council voted 8-1 in favor of more study, saying that the longer work-week must be approved by union representatives before it can be implemented.

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