NEWPORT DAILY NEWS - 43 Acres on Portsmouth's West Side to be Auctioned Off

September 10, 2018

By Derek Gomes 

Daily News staff writer

PORTSMOUTH - A long swath of undeveloped property along Narragansett Bay in Portsmouth will be up for grabs at an auction later this month.

Massachusetts-basedJJManning Auctioneers is advertising a 43-acre development site off Burma Road, sandwiched between the Melville marina and boatyard to the north and the Weaver Cove public boat launch to the south. A property tour will be given this Wednesday and the auction is scheduled for Sept. 26 at 11 a.m. at the site, according to information from the auction house. The property will be sold to the highest bidder "regardless of price," its advertising materials declare.

The five parcels that comprise the property have a total assessed value of about $4 million,JJManning said in a brochure. According to the town's online real estate records, the current owner is Melville Associates LP, which purchased the site in December 2006. Melville Associates was apparently the vehicle used by Pennsylvania-based development firm O'Neill Properties Group, led by J. Brian O'Neill, to buy it.

O'Neill Properties secured $14.1 million in financing for the real estate transaction, with the intention of building the "state's largest marina with room for mega-yachts, residences, shops, restaurants and marine businesses," The Daily News reported in March 2007.

An approval dating to October 1995 allowed for a 1,495-slip marina at the site, which was formerly Navy land and was owned by boat builder Ted Hood. The "marina village" could accommodate potentially 988 housing units, including studios and one- to three-bedroom residences, representatives of O'Neill Properties said at a town meeting in May 2006, when it had the property under contract.

The development of the Weaver Cove land would have dovetailed with J. Brian O'Neill's other ventures on the western side of Portsmouth, including the luxury Carnegie Tower and the Newport Beach Club. While the tower was completed and the Newport Beach Club is under development, the transformation of the Weaver Cove land never happened.

Melville Associates went through permitting processes with the town of Portsmouth, Coastal Resources Management Council and Army Corps of Engineers, according to online records. In August 2014, the Army Corps of Engineers New England District started a public comment period for a permit application from Melville Associates to build and maintain a marina with 887 slips in Weaver Cove, a revised plan - with fewer slips - from the one authorized in October 1995.

The 2014 application was administratively withdrawn because Melville Associates did not provide additional information when prompted by the Army Corps of Engineers, according to agency spokesman Tim Dugan. It requested the information on Oct. 21, 2014, and no response was received within 60 days, he wrote in an email. The agency withdrew the application on May 12, 2015.

A listed phone number for O'Neill Properties was disconnected. No one from another development company tied to J. Brian O'Neill returned a voice message seeking comment.

"The Owners have chosen Absolute Auction, the accelerated method of marketing, for the sale of this fabulous property," stated a letter from Justin Manning, president ofJJManning Auctioneers, to prospective bidders. "Their decision allows you to set the market price for this magnificent waterfront site with your bid. You will buy the property at the lowest possible price by bidding one increment higher than the competition."