Norwich boaters press City Council for action on marina conditions

Norwich — Boaters added their voices Monday to the anger and frustration city officials have expressed about conditions and the lack of amenities at the Marina at American Wharf prior to a City Council vote to put the marina owner on notice to make back rental payments and make repairs.

The City Council voted late Monday night 6-0 in favor of a resolution putting the marina owner on notice that the city would find the group in default unless corrections are made. The council went into executive session for 45 minutes before voting to give marina owner JCM Norwich Marina Acquisitions LLC, owned by Joyal Capital Management, 30 days to catch up on rent payments of $5,000 per year dating back to 2012 and 45 days to begin work on numerous improvements and to install new boater fuel tanks.

The time periods will start once the written notice is sent by City Manager John Salomone.

Attorney Glenn Carberry, representing the marina owner, declined to comment on boaters’ comments or the council action late Monday.

Old fuel tanks were removed properly when they reached the end of their 30-year lifespan two years ago, but city officials have asked that the owners replace the tanks, saying it was required as part of the lease. There is currently no gasoline available to boaters at the marina.

Mario Bekiaris, who had run the seasonal Americas on the Wharf restaurant at the marina for the past two years, said he had hoped to continue to run the marina restaurant. He said he had asked JCM for a long-term lease but was only offered a one-year lease. He said he was promised a 10-year lease but would have settled for three years.

The marina restaurant never opened this summer.

Robert Groner, a boat owner at the marina for the past eight years, said the marina should be the “jewel” of downtown Norwich, “from which all other development should radiate.” Groner said he accompanied Bekiaris on a tour of the vacant marina building next to the pool, which Bekiaris had hoped to renovate into a year-round restaurant.

Groner said he was shocked at the condition of the building. He said apparently there had been a roof leak that was never repaired. The interior was water damaged and everything was stripped out.

Along with the restaurant being closed, the marina pool was not open until last week. Boaters said the lack of gas was just one problem. They talked of rotting wood, peeling paint, no lights in the parking lot and said it is an embarrassment to the city when transient boaters come up river to dock for a day or a weekend.

“These people leased this city property,” Groner said. “They are responsible for the condition of it. They’re responsible for the maintenance of it. Right now, we have no restaurant, no gas, deteriorating facilities. The pool, OK they opened it, just because they got the pump working. But there’s been no repairs done to the concrete surrounding the pool. It’s got cracks, it’s got craters, the pool furniture is falling apart. It’s a disgrace. … This guy’s in violation of the lease. He should be taken to court and he should be thrown out.”

Groner’s comments were greeted with applause by other boaters in the audience.

Norwich resident Brian Kobylarz said if the city does terminate the lease and takes over the property, a master plan should be created for the entire waterfront area. He said the city needs to be prepared for the major development proposed by Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment for the former Norwich Hospital property in Preston, a short distance down the Thames River from Norwich Harbor.

Boater Gail Ennis of Preston asked what would happen to the marina operation in the near future if the city begins default proceedings. She and boater Tammy Casale of Marlborough, who has been at the marina for eight years, said a marina representative told boaters on Saturday that if the council approves the resolution, the marina would shut off power and water to the marina facilities.

Casale said the conditions are deteriorating, and it gives the city a bad name when boaters come up river from New York or the shoreline to find no restaurant, a dirty pool, no gasoline and crumbling docks.

“We just want someone to care about it,” Casale said. “We’ve got our fingers crossed.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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