BATH — The city is considering the sale of a small piece of the Butler Head preserve to adjoining property owners.

Mardouni and Esther Sharrigan, who own property at 107 Mallard Road, have proposed buying less than 0.3 percent of the preserve to settle code violations committed because two of their buildings are on city land.

The council voted last February to convey a conservation easement on the preserve – an approximately 141-acre parcel in the northern part of the city, on Merrymeeting Bay – to the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust.

City Manager Bill Giroux said at the time that the council had been approached several times about selling off small parts of the property. Other than the sale of less than one acre in 2012, he said he did not know of any other sale in the past seven years.

City Councilor David Sinclair had said he and Councilor Sean Paulhus brought the item before the City Council last year “in hopes of protecting this natural and unique asset of the city in perpetuity from further development and/or sale.”

The Sharrigans violated the city code by building two structures on city land and partly on their own property. They were granted an easement for less than an acre of that land in 1989 to install a septic system. They said they wanted to settle those long-standing violations and comply with the code, and hope to purchase most of that easement and a small non-easement area, and release the rest back to the city.

The Sharrigans’ attorney, John Bannon, said the parcel they want to buy comprises less than 0.3 percent of Butler Head.

Still, some councilors and members of the Bath Community Forestry Committee argued Jan. 8 that the entire preserve should be kept intact.

Sinclair moved for the Sharrigans to be given one year to remove the structures from city land and comply with the code, and that if they do, all fines they had accumulated would be forgiven. He did not not favor selling the couple the land.

Esther Sharrigan told the council there is no place on their property to place the buildings.

Some councilors noted that the violations should have been addressed years ago. Several agreed that the $7,500 the Sharrigans offered for the parcel was far too small. The council ultimately voted – 6-2, with Paulhus and Sinclair opposed – against Sinclair’s motion.

Giroux called for the property to be appraised. City staff could also negotiate a different price with the Sharrigans, and determine the minimum amount of land necessary to be sold to put the couple in compliance. If sold, the property could be restricted from any other buildings being erected there.

The process could take several months, Giroux said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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