HALLOWELL — Details surrounding a negotiation that halted an expansion of a downtown sidewalk will be ironed out Thursday.

Hallowell City Council’s Highway Committee — led by Councilor Lisa Harvey-McPherson, and including councilors Michael Frett and Lynn Irish — has invited all parties involved in a discussion to change construction plans that halted a Water Street sidewalk expansion plan to come to its next meeting.

Harvey-McPherson said Friday the meeting is for “information gathering” to “inform future discussion” about the sidewalk for upcoming City Council discussion.

The meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

Controversy about the changes whipped up last month when residents questioned the change. Former City Councilor Alan Stearns, who served during the planning of the project, said the change meant the project didn’t follow through on a 2016 resolution by the council, which allocated up to $483,762 toward a number of tasks, including sidewalk extensions.

“The nutshell of the issue is that the owner of the building resisted eminent domain,” he said earlier this month. “We had planned a sidewalk connecting the Lucky Garden to the boat ramp.”

The plans changed following a March meeting, which included Mayor Mark Walker, City Manager Nate Rudy, State Rep. Charlotte Warren, Maine Department of Transportation Project Manager Ernie Martin and Lucky Garden owners Tony and Annie Huang. The end result was honoring the Huang’s desire to stop the extension of the sidewalk before it reached the Lucky Garden’s parking lot — where it stopped prior to construction — to maintain space in the lot and preserve the decorative rocks in front of the restaurant.

The reasons for the restaurant’s resistance have been explained a number of ways. Lucky Garden employees cited a loss in parking space by adding a sidewalk in front of the lot, while Harvey-McPherson said religious and cultural concerns were involved with regard to a group of boulders in front of the restaurant.

Martin said the MDOT was OK with the change because the sidewalk was a city-added portion of the contract and the city had the final say. Walker and Rudy told the Kennebec Journal that they believed it was a joint-decision by the MDOT and the Huangs.

Walker also said an eminent domain hearing to purchase the land from the Huangs could have halted the project, leading to lengthy delays and more snared traffic.

Further, Walker said he briefed councilors at City Council meetings before the Lucky Garden meeting in March and after the meeting in April. Councilors are split on the briefings, which Walker said were not detailed. Councilor Diano Circo said he did not recall a briefing in March or April, and Harvey-McPherson said the briefings, being undetailed, flew under the radar while the city was dealing with the large Water Street reconstruction project.

No briefings were mentioned in meeting minutes from March and April. Further, no action was taken at those meetings to amend the plans or the 2016 resolution.

The meeting with all parties was planned following a Highway Committee meeting in October, when committee members raised questions that were not easily answered.

“There’s a lot of interest into what was the role of the city and what was the role of (MDOT),” Harvey-McPherson said Oct. 24. “As our next step, we want to invite the party of the agreements to have a discussion.”

She said questions raised during the October Highway Committee meeting centered on the roles of the negotiating parties, what religious and cultural concerns are present regarding boulders that would have been moved if the original plans had gone forward and legal issues around eminent domain. Those questions could be asked Thursday.

No public comment is on the agenda for the meeting. Walker, Rudy, Warren, Martin, the Huangs and abutter Jon Lund are scheduled to attend and speak.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.