PAWTUCKET – Tensions between the city and owners of the Apex property continue to mount, with the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency now turning to the courts.
The agency Tuesday voted unanimously to authorize its counsel to file a lawsuit against Apex Cos., seeking an injunction to allow them to access the site for environmental testing. The decision was discussed in a virtual executive session, with the vote disclosed publicly in accordance with state public information laws.
Pawtucket Commerce Director Jeanne Boyle in a statement to Providence Business News said the move to legal action comes after several months in which the PRA and property owners have been unable to reach an access agreement that would allow the agency to conduct standard environmental testing.
“The process is simply taking too long,” Boyle said.
According to Boyle, the city sent notice to Apex Cos. in November notifying them of intent to conduct environmental testing, in keeping with the state’s eminent domain statute, which lets redevelopment agencies enter private property, after a two-week written notice, for environmental testing to determine if property acquisition is possible. The city first started the process to seize the property by eminent domain in October, subsequently authorizing the agency to borrow up to $20 million to buy and redevelop the site.
City tax assessor records show that the 6 acres of land and the 100,000-square-foot building at 100 Main St. was valuated at $4.3 million in 2018.
Joshua Glass, an attorney who represents Apex Cos., addressed the agency at the meeting, saying the access agreement proposed by the agency was “objectively unfair. Glass called for the city to afford the company the “basic rights” property sellers have in standard commercial transactions – including keeping any findings from the environmental review private until a deal is reached or the property is seized by eminent domain. Glass also called for a 30-day deadline to allow the parties to reach a consensual sale, saying the company remains open and willing to work with the city but has not received a comprehensive offer from city officials in almost a year.
“If the city is serious about doing a deal, it should act accordingly,” Glass said. “The parties should be negotiating a deal, or at least making a real attempt, before they expend massive – and potentially avoidable – legal fees.”
Theodore Orson, counsel to the PRA, said Glass’ claims were ethically, legally and factually inaccurate, and recommended the injunction.
“It would be tremendously irresponsible and a violation of public trust to acquire property … without knowing what lies beneath the property,” Orson said.
The Apex site was originally slated to be included in the multimillion, mixed-use Tidewater Landing project slated for Pawtucket’s riverfront, but later pulled from the project. It was also a sticking point in prior plans for a new PawSox stadium, and would require significant environmental remediation according to previous studies.
Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.
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