HALLOWELL — City officials find themselves between a rock and a hard place over plans to finish a sidewalk project that was halted at the request of the owners of a restaurant on Water Street.

One day after the City Council approved $35,000 in funding for a 4-foot sidewalk in front of the Lucky Garden if it could be built without moving boulders lining the front of a parking lot next to the restaurant, Maine Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday that it couldn’t be done.

During the reconstruction of Water Street last summer, owners of the Lucky Garden, Tony and Annie Huang, asked that work on the eastern sidewalk be halted before it reached the decorative boulders separating their parking lot and the road. Not only would moving the rocks back from the road reduce the available parking at the restaurant, city officials said the boulders had “religious and cultural” significance to the owners.

In December 2018, Annie Huang told the city’s Highway Committee the boulders were placed according to feng shui, a Chinese belief pertaining to design that promotes balance and the flow of positive energy.

City Manager Nate Rudy said city and state officials surveyed the land Tuesday and found the rocks would have to be moved two to three feet into the restaurant’s parking lot to accommodate a sidewalk.

In December, councilors asked Rudy to look into finishing the stretch of sidewalk from the eatery to the northern entrance of the state boat landing. It was also mentioned in December that the sidewalk could be added to an upcoming renovation of the boat landing.

Maine Department of Transportation project manager Ernie Martin said he spoke with Annie Huang after the survey, and she maintained her position of not wanting to move the boulders. Martin recommended that city officials meet with the Huangs before they make their next decision.

“At this point, the (transportation) department has done their due diligence to convey to the property owner what is going to happen.” he said. “The city already made one decision to not do it, and now they kind of have to revisit it.”

On Wednesday, Rudy said city officials “will do everything we can” to respect the wishes of all parties concerned about the sidewalk.

The Kennebec Journal requested comment from all seven city councilors, but none responded. Highway Committee Chair Maureen AuCoin and member Diano Circo did not respond to a second request for comment.

Sam Shepherd can be contacted at 621-5666 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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