WATERVILLE — A business owner on Silver Street downtown urged the councilors on Tuesday to do something about people partying in the street near his office late at night, using the street as a toilet, dealing drugs and jumping onto his roof.

John Fortier, a former city councilor and Parking Study Committee chairman, said he has owned State Farm Insurance on Silver Street 40 years, and while he has reported the activity, it continues.

“There’s defecation and urinating, there’s drug dealing, people go up the fire escape and jump across to my building, a dozen of them at a time,” Fortier said. “They’re partying on my roof. It’s just nasty, the whole thing. It’s wrong for me to suffer that kind of abuse, and it’s gone on for years.”

A Belgrade resident, Fortier attended the Waterville City Council meeting Tuesday to ask that they postpone voting on a request to close parts of Silver Street and Merchant’s Way downtown to through traffic from April 1, 2021, to Nov. 1, 2021, to provide additional opportunities for outdoor dining. He said no one knows how the COVID-19 situation will be next year or what social distancing guidelines will be, and there should be no rush to make a decision now.

But Jennifer Bergeron, co-owner of the Lion’s Den Tavern, which has outdoor dining on The Concourse, and Charlie Giguere, owner of Silver Street Tavern, which also has outdoor dining, said they need to know now if the streets will be closed next year so that they have time to plan. COVID-19 has been difficult on restaurateurs and the outdoor dining opportunity has been critical, according to the business owners.

Fortier also took issue with the fact that he learned only 24 hours prior to the meeting that the council was to make a decision Tuesday on the street closure for next year. He said the closure of part of the street for outdoor dining this year has been difficult for his customers who are elderly, have mobility problems and need nearby parking.

“I’m stuck, and I just need a little more consideration to do business in a sanitary and clean fashion,” Fortier said. “You guys have got to do your due diligence, and it hasn’t been done.”

Mayor Nick Isgro said it is imperative that Fortier’s issue be addressed, if what he says is true.

“If we have people going to the bathroom outside and women ripping their shirts off and all kind of debauchery happening, I think it’s abhorrent. …” Isgro said.

City Manager Michael Roy said he spoke with police Chief Joseph Massey earlier Tuesday, and Massey said his department in 2019 and this year conducted patrols on Silver Street to address the issues Fortier raised.

Diners sit Sept. 1 on the extended patio at Silver Street Tavern in Waterville. City Councilors voted Tuesday to close parts of two streets in 2021 to allow for outdoor dining. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

“They don’t announce it when they go, John,” Roy said. “They’re not in uniform …”

Roy said that obviously police cannot be on the site every night.

Meanwhile, Fortier said he started looking for a new location in July for his business because of the “shenanigans” on Silver Street, and he hopes to be in a new site on Kennedy Memorial Drive in April next year. But he noted that he still owns the Silver Street property.

Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, pointed out that the requested street closure for next year and Fortier’s ongoing problems are two separate issues. He said it does seem Fortier’s issues continue, and he told Fortier he is willing to meet with him, Roy and possibly Massey to discuss it. He said he thinks the city needs to be a mediator, and he could serve as facilitator.

Councilors voted 5-1 to approve closing the streets next year, despite Fortier’s claim that doing so would box his business in.

“I’m for dining, but don’t close my doors,” he said. “Don’t devalue my property, and that’s what you’re talking about here.”

Bergeron said Fortier’s problems occur after her restaurant has closed for the night, and she also would like to see that activity stop.

Giguere said he felt his business was being held hostage by a feud between Fortier and a neighboring restaurant.

“It’s out of my control, and I really don’t want to get caught up in that dialogue,” Giguere said, adding that he appreciated what the council has done so far in allowing the streets to be closed for outdoor dining. He urged the council to vote Tuesday to approve the closures next year as well.

As part of the council’s vote to approve those closures, permission was given to The Proper Pig restaurant to use part of Common Street in the same way it did this year.

The council previously authorized outdoor dining to be extended to Nov. 1 this year, and the Lion’s Den restaurant requested, and was granted permission for, extending outdoor dining until April 1, 2021. That restaurant, which uses an outdoor structure on The Concourse off Merchant’s Way, is working on possible plans for winter, including serving hors d’oeuvres, having an ice bar and possibly fire pits.

In addition to Silver Street Tavern, the Last Unicorn and Cancun restaurants operate outdoor dining on part of Silver Street. The outdoor dining dates for next year also would apply for You Know Whose Pub and Holy Cannoli off Merchant’s Way.

The proposed spot for an ice rink between the community pool and the playground on North Street in Waterville. On Tuesday, councilors postponed voting on a 99-year lease for Alfond Youth & Community Center to build an ice rink until details such as lot size are decided.  Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

In other matters Tuesday, the council had planned to consider taking a final vote to approve a lease for the Alfond Youth & Community Center for city-owned land adjacent to the Alfond Municipal Pool on North Street for building a community ice rink. However, the council voted 6-0 to postpone voting on the lease. Some details such as the lot size have not been decided yet, according to Roy.

The council took a first vote to approve a 99-year lease for the property so the Alfond Center can build a rink on Oct. 6, but Alfond officials said they must first get a nod from the center’s board of directors before starting to raise funds with Central Maine Youth Hockey for the rink.

The council Tuesday voted 6-0 on a separate request to refer to the Planning Board for public hearing and recommendation a proposal to rezone part of the land for the rink from Resource Protection to Industrial Zone, rezone the shoreland part of the property from Resource Protection to Class B shoreland and make revisions to the Institutional Zone to reduce building setback requirements.

The council also took a final, 5-1 vote, to approve amendments to the marijuana ordinance, with Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, the lone dissenter.

Councilors voted 6-0 to accept an $11,837 Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund Grant for trail work at the Quarry Road Trails recreation area, and 6-0 to accept an $80,000 grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to support planning and operation of safe and secure elections.

Councilors voted unanimously to indefinitely table making a decision to refer to the Planning Board a request by M&J Properties LLC that 125 Airport Road be rezoned from Airport Industrial to General Industrial to allow for construction of a marijuana growing facility. But the council voted 6-0 to accept an offer of $64,900 from M&J Properties for Lot. No. 7 in the Airport Road Subdivision.

Councilors voted 6-0 to appoint Mark Wardecker to the Waterville Public Library Board of Trustees for a term to expire in 2023. They voted 6-0 to issue a secondhand license to Damon’s Vintage Vinyl LLC, doing business as The Record Connection at 252 Main St. They also voted unanimously to approve changes to the MainePERS retirement plan for Waterville Professional Firefighters Union.

Councilors took the first of two needed votes to rezone about 22 acres of Airport Road from Airport District to Airport Industrial District to allow Cenergy to construct a solar farm. The vote was 6-0.

They also voted 3-3 to refer to the Planning Board for public hearing and recommendation a request from former councilor and mayoral candidate Phil Bofia to reconsider regulations in the zoning ordinance regarding the keeping of chickens.

Isgro broke the tie in favor of sending the matter to the Planning Board — his first time as mayor breaking a tie, he said. Francke and councilors Mike Morris, D-Ward 1, and Flavia Oliveira, D-Ward 2, voted against referring the matter to the Planning Board. Thomas and councilors Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, and Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, voted to refer it to the board.

Bofia said he has six chickens on his property, and he did not know the city has an ordinance mandating a property must be 10,000 square feet in size to have those chickens,. Bofia said he understands the need to regulate the keeping of chickens, but he thinks the ordinance is too restrictive.

Oliveira said she has spoken with Bofia’s next-door neighbor who says his coop is about 10 feet from her house. Bofia said he thinks that with the ordinance in place, half of the city’s population would be prohibited from having chickens.

“I reached out to (my neighbor) to try to solve the issue,” Bofia said. “She wasn’t very receptive to the conversation, but that’s OK.”

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