Norwich mayor: Marina owner is in default of lease
Norwich — The City Council on Monday will consider notifying the owners of the Marina at American Wharf that they are in default of their lease of the city property for failure to make lease payments totaling $35,000 and failure to maintain the marina property, make repairs, keep the restaurant open and install boat fuel tanks after removing old ones.
The City Council will consider a three-page resolution Monday outlining the requirements in the 99-year ground lease of the marina property which dates to 1987 and was taken over by JCM Norwich Marina Acquisitions LLC in October 2011. The resolution would authorize City Manager John Salomone to send written notice to JCM either to comply with the requirements or face default proceedings.
“The city’s done,” Mayor Peter Nystrom said Friday of the attempts to persuade Joyal Capital Management officials to comply with the lease or sell the property to a new marina operator.
“It’s the city’s position that our operator is clearly in default,” Nystrom said. “And we are serving notice that we either expect full remedy or restitution, or the city will take necessary action: end the lease.”
The resolution would give the owner 30 days to catch up on lease payments and 45 days to show progress on repairs or renovations required in the lease, or the city would seek to terminate the lease.
Specifically, Nystrom cited the general disrepair, including a section of wooden decking with broken and missing boards, failure to renovate and open the pool for tenant boaters and the failure to open the seasonal restaurant on the marina grounds. The fuel tanks were removed properly two years ago, when they reached their state-mandated 30-year lifespan. But Nystrom said the lease requires that they be replaced, which has not been done, leaving the marina at a clear disadvantage for boaters.
Nystrom also said bathrooms appear uncleaned and the property is in a general state of disrepair. “It’s just terrible,” he said.
Gary Joyal, chief executive officer of Joyal Capital Management LLC, which owns the marina, could not immediately be reached to comment Friday. A marina manager declined to comment Friday but said the pool reopened on Wednesday.
The marina's website calls the site a premier wedding venue, with a photo of the banquet tent, now removed with metal pegs sticking up from the brick floor. The website describes the Americas on the Wharf restaurant, which never opened this season, its chairs and bar stools upside down on the tables.
The news and events section of the website invite people to visit the marina's booth at the 2016 fall boat shows in Norwalk and Newport.
Boat owners weigh in
Two longtime boat owners on Friday offered different views of the situation.
Peter Disch of Norwich, who has two boats at the marina and has been a tenant since the facility opened in 1988 under original developer Ronald Aliano, said the dispute is between the new owner and the city. Disch said the lack of services, especially the fuel and the restaurant, are "inconvenient" but said he understands the financial aspects.
"If you were a restaurant owner, would you want to come here? With all this uncertainty?" Disch said. "The place is for sale."
Disch said it would be difficult for a buyer to make the marina profitable, but he called the city waterfront and the marina "a value," calling it "one of the safest harbors on the East Coast."
Disch said it might make sense for the city to turn it into a marina condo, with boat owners purchasing their slips and contributing to an association that would pay for much-needed repairs and new amenities.
"It's tired," he said. "It's 30 years old. It's tired."
The second boat owner, an eight-year tenant, declined to give his name so as not to foster a frictional relationship with marina management. He said the lack of fuel tanks is a big burden, forcing boaters to fuel up downriver and alter their schedules at times. He said he recently had to cancel a planned boating outing with friends, because they would return too late to fuel up before heading up the Thames.
The man has arranged for a truck to come to the marina to refuel his boat with 800 gallons of fuel. He said that's not easy, because fuel companies need an over-water permit to fuel boats.
City officials have assisted in the effort to find a buyer for the marina, but Nystrom said three interested buyers could not reach agreements with JCM. Nystrom said the owner failed to negotiate in good faith and made unreasonable demands.
“The terms the current owner was asking for were not anything anyone would agree to,” Nystrom said. “So, time’s up.”
Alderman Samuel Browning, a co-sponsor of the resolution along with Nystrom and Alderwoman Stacy Gould, said he agreed that the city must act soon to protect its interests.
“They haven’t paid their rent in years,” Browning said. “They haven’t been maintaining the marina. Under the lease, you have to give them notice that they are in violation and ask them to remedy it. The boating season is pretty much half gone, but we cannot continue to have the lease go on with the state of disrepair that the marina currently is in.”
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