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Apex Building Targeted For PawSox Stadium Figures In Lawsuit Between Past & Present Owners

Rhode Island Public Radio

April 26. 2017

By Ian Donnis

The former owners of the Apex Building being considered for a new PawSox ballpark in Pawtucket argue in a Superior Court lawsuit that the site’s current owner demanded $6.4 million for unnecessary environmental cleanup costs.

According to the lawsuit, Environmental Land Usage Restrictions in 2014 “resolved all prior issues that the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management had concerning contaminated soils,” and since then, the owner of the Apex Building has “received no notices of violations, demands for cleanup, or demands from any state or federal agency for any further action to be taken at” at the Apex Building site or a nearby tire center “to address contaminated soils.”

Despite that, the former owners of the Apex Building assert in the lawsuit that the current ownership demanded last December a payment of $6.452,363 “for alleged anticipated environmental cleanup costs that have only been roughly estimated by the Defendants.” [italics in original]

“A significant portion of the purported estimates would be for work completely unnecessary pursuant to the ELUR’s, and would require” the former owners “to restore the Apex Building and Tire Center properties to a pristine condition, which they have not been in since, approximately, the latter part of the 18th Century,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in January by Providence lawyer Michael A. Kelly, on behalf of Teknor Apex Company; Pawtucket Financial Corporation; Apex Warwick; and Apex Massachusetts. The defendant is Apex Development Company. Andrew Gates, the owner of the Apex Building, is head of the Apex Companies.

According to a statement released by both sides in the dispute, “The litigation is related to a long-running business dispute that involves multiple properties in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The Apex Companies have been working with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management on the environmental issues that exist on the Pawtucket property, they are publicly documented, and have been discussed with the Pawtucket Red Sox.”

“This litigation is in no way impacting our ongoing negotiations with the Pawtucket Red Sox ownership group about the use of a portion of our property near downtown as a potential location for the team’s new ballpark,” the statement continues. “We look forward to continuing these conversations.”

According to the suit, Apex Development build the Apex Building in 1969. It goes on to say, “In 2000, the interests of certain ‘Apex’ entities, and the owners thereof, diverged from one another.”

(Note: Jon Fain, chairman, CEO and principal owner of Teknor Apex, is a board member of Rhode Island Public Radio.)

The PawSox have identified the Apex Building as the team’s preferred location for a new baseball stadium.

The team did not have an immediate comment on the lawsuit.

Earlier this week, the PawSox released a “park within a park” concept for the site, calling for a series of recreation uses beyond baseball. The team has yet to offer any details on what the project might cost, and how it will be paid for, although the PawSox are expected to offer a proposal before the end of the current General Assembly session.

The Raimondo administration, mindful of how a proposal for a taxpayer-funded downtown Providence stadium met with sharp public disapproval in 2015, has signaled support for what has been called a revenue-neutral approach.

Read the article on the Rhode Island Public Radio website.

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Under review: 28-house plan off Diamond Hill Road

The Valley Breeze

April 12, 2017
By SANDY SEOANE, Valley Breeze Staff Writer

WOONSOCKET – A 7.5 acre open field between Diamond Hill Road and Morin Street could soon be converted into a neighborhood with 28 single-family homes according to a proposal that unanimously won master plan approval from the city Planning Board this week.

The proposal for the subdivision, submitted by Woonsocket-based developer John Laquerre, would see the houses lining a new street dubbed “Theresa Marie Avenue,” which would run from Diamond Hill Road to Morin Street. The properties in the new “Sapphire Estates” would be sold for around $400,000 each, according to Planning Director N. David Bouley.

Land for the project abuts homes along Coolidge Avenue, Morin Street, Ruth Street and Morris Street according to a master plan for the project put together for Laquerre by Nyberg and Associates. Bouley noted that abutters have been notified of the proposal, and will receive a second notification before the plan receives final approval.

The project first came before the Planning Board at their Feb. 7 meeting, with a presentation by Joelle Rocha of Kelly and Mancini, PC. Laquerre said his intended market for the homes is retired individuals and working class families, describing the proposed buildings as high end raised ranches with peaks, architectural shingles and sprinkler systems, according to minutes from the meeting. The investor, who lives in a home on St. Louis Avenue, said that utilities for the development would be underground, and stone walls would surround the area, comparing his vision to newer homes along Dike Street.

The majority of vegetation in the area would be cleared, but a small buffer would remain between lots.

In addition to the entrances to Sapphire Estates on Diamond Hill Road and Morin Street, properties could be accessed from the east by Wilcox Street.

During a pre-application review of the plan, two abutters expressed concern about low water pressure in the area. Bouley noted that the developer’s next step is a hydraulic analysis, and that he may need to connect to a high pressure area.

“Much of the area has low water pressure,” Bouley said.

On April 6, the Northern Rhode Island Board of Realtors submitted a letter of support for the project, along with another proposal currently before the planning board, which would see 72 single-level duplex units built just off Mendon Road.

“The Sapphire Estates development of 28 single family units in East Woonsocket will likely fill a needed market in Woonsocket of young professionals or new families,” the letter states. “This project would increase the homeowner to renter ratio, which is currently at 35:65.”

As part of the unanimous approval on April 4, planners asked that the developer increase the size of the proposed Theresa Marie Avenue, and add sidewalks.

Several stages of planning and approval are still required before work on Sapphire Estates can begin. The developer will still need to present more detailed plans, including a wetlands application, and will require a zoning variance for a utility easement.

Half an acre on the westerly side of the property is wetlands, but plans state that the project would be consistent with the rest of the densely populated neighborhood.

Laquerre could not be reached for comment, but property records show that he’s been involved in a number of real estate transactions in the city over the past several decades.

Another developer, meanwhile, hopes to build two to three bedroom, 1,750 square-foot duplexes along with a private 24-foot-wide roadway in a different undeveloped area in East Woonsocket. The project for that 50 acre property, known as Holley Springs, was actually approved by the City Council years ago, according to attorney Michael Kelly, who is representing investor Raymond Bourque, but stalled due to “market issues.” It was revisited in 2000-2003 and has since been revised to include 77, rather than 100 units.

A condo association would be responsible for the maintenance of the private roadway, as well as a road extension to be built on Cheryl Ann Drive, and and the development would include two cul-de-sacs. The units would be priced between $300,000 and $340,000, according to Kelly.

Letters regarding both projects from NRIBR note that 90 percent of housing in Woonsocket was built before 1978, and 50 percent before 1939.

“The projected development will increase property values in East Woonsocket and bring in individuals with disposable income higher than the average income in Woonsocket, to spend in local businesses,” states the communication, signed by former City Councilor Garrett Mancieri, who serves as chairman of the Government Affairs Committee, and Mary Baron, president of NRIBR.

The Holley Springs project will need to come back before the board for master plan approval.

Read the article on The Valley Breeze website.

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Town abandons road extension despite subdivision’s approval: $800,000 settlement

Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly

November 7, 2016

The plaintiff gardening nursery was headquartered in Middletown with another location in Portsmouth. The plaintiff received Planning Board approval for a subdivision at the Portsmouth location, conditioned upon the use of the Heidi Drive Extension as a second means of egress. Despite knowing about the approval and over the plaintiff’s objection, the town of Portsmouth abandoned the …

Click here to read the full article (subscription required).

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The Power List – Who Makes Rhode Island Move

GoLocalProv News Team

Monday, August 29, 2016

The powerful move and influence in a different way than the rest of us. Yes, the powerful may make the strategic acquisition that is announced, or give a speech in front of hundreds, but their true influence comes from their contacts, network, money, and their unique ability to achieve goals — and most often without even being noticed.

The Power List breaks down who makes Rhode Island move. Some are CEOs and known to all, while others work in small concerns or on the staffs of elected officials and their phone call can change everything.

This list unveils who makes Rhode Island move, shake, reverberate — and succeed and fail.

“Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries,” said Frank Underwood in the Netflix series, House of Cards.

Each day this week we pull back the curtain and unveil a different group of power brokers in Rhode Island.

Lawyers and Members of the Judiciary

Some on this list have influenced the direction of Rhode Island for decades and others are new in the power game. How long they will be able to wield their influence will be determined by the test of time.

This list was developed with the input of journalists, elected officials, business influencers, top attorneys, leaders in philanthropy — those who contributed to the list are, de facto, powerful in their own right.

MICHAEL_A._KELLY

Top Dog

Michael Kelly — Street fighting litigator that is happy to take on cities, the state, big companies – it does not matter.

Kelly’s cases are often controversial and nuclear. Recently, he beat the Department of Health on the suspension of former State Senator/pharmacist Leo Blais.

Nothing’s dull when Kelly is involved

 

Click here to read about all the lawyers and members of the judiciary on The Power List.

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The Hummel Report: Change in Direction

 

A Hummel Report Investigation
August 6, 2015

 

For more than a decade a proposed improvement plan for T.F. Green Airport, including an expansion plan of the main runway, has left some homeowners and businesses wondering if they’d have to move to accommodate the changes. This week: one Warwick business is suing the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, saying RIAC promised to buy its lot on Airport Road, only to pull out of the deal – leaving the business holding a piece of unmarketable property.

Read more

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Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly / Zoning: Quarry – Hearing

By Tom Egan

April 23, 2015

 

Where plaintiff neighbors of a quarrying operation have alleged that the defendant town of Westerly prevented them from voicing their concerns at a public hearing about the quarry, the count against the town must be dismissed for lack of injury.

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Providence Journal: Dust-up over store continues

Owner of CLUCK! gets peddler’s license, but group of neighbors remains opposed
By Alisha A. Pina
PROVIDENCE –
A closed sign with an apology remains on the door of CLUCK!, the urban farm-supply store that owner Drake Patten has been fighting for months to open on Broadway.
The seemingly never-ending battle has including packed Zoning Board meetings, failed negotiations, intervention form city officials, a Superior Court ruling, a well attended CLUCK! rally and online fundraiser to help Patten with her legal fees.
Without the opposition from a small contingent of neighbors, including the Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church across the street, Patten may have been open by now.
Instead she sits in front of 399 Broadway, on most good weather days, selling samples of her supplies. Read more

Go Local Prov: Neighbors Battle Over Chicken Coop – Urban Zoning Issues

Monday, May 06, 2013
Tracey C. O’Neill GoLocalProv News Contributor

One chicken coop located at 399 Broadway on the City’s West Side has caused considerable controversy.

The owner of Cluck, an urban feed and garden supply store is battling abutters who oppose her proposed use of an abandoned urban property in the City’s West End.

The proposed store located on Broadway, owned by Drake Patten has drawn considerable attention and support from residents and community organizations who support the proposed retail use – a small retail supplier of chickens, feed and urban gardening materials.

Zoning appeal curbs opening.

“I first located the property in September of last year and the city’s initial record that they provided to me was that the property was commercial zoning and the deeper in we got it became clear that there wasn’t the appropriate zoning,” said Drake Patten, owner of Cluck, the proposed business to be operated at 399 Broadway. “We decided to go forward and obtain zoning. The first hearing we could get was in February, where we received approval.”
The zoning approval was later overturned on a technicality as one abutter, John J. Paterra, II did not receive formal notification.

The opposition, Anthony and Monica Paolino, Sts Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church and John J. Paterra II have filed for a restraining order to prevent Patten from peddling on the property under a city issued peddling license. Major concerns cited are the presence of chickens on the property and parking constraints.

“The abutters filed for a restraining order against me. When I was told I had lost the zoning decision based on one abutter not being informed, I had applied that week for a peddler’s license as a backup plan. I’ve been peddling according to the law and they are now accusing me of running a retail store and selling things from my store. I can only load supplies out in the morning. I am very much trying to respect the peddling limits that have been set. They are claiming I go in and out of my store, which is a lie. I wish I could go in and out of my store. It’s just not true.”

Restraining order requested to stop all retail activitiy.

John O. Mancini, of the Law Offices of Michael A. Kelly, attorney for the abutters filed for the restraining order.

“It’s illegal,” he said. The city issued a cease and desist on the peddler’s license and then it was retracted. The peddler’s license doesn’t fall within the law.”

Patten made permanent plans to accommodate the new business based on her initial zoning approval.

“I left my job on March 1 and intended to open on March 15. Here we are in May and I am still not open,” she said.

Patten had already ordered all of her supplies to open in March. The building now sits with a full inventory some of which cannot be sold this year even if the zoning is approved, due to seasonal timing constraints.

Financial concerns and legal fees mounting.

Patten is also limited in what she can sell as a peddler and is unable to purchase summer compost and other materials needed by her clientele due to the pending legal matters. She can’t continue with improvements to the property due to the imposed work stoppage and escalating legal fees.

“I am trying not to spend more money now, because I don’t know what is going to happen,” she said.

Sts Vartanantz Aremian Apostolistic Church, that sits across the street from Cluck has signed on in opposition to the retail store. Patten said that she sat down with members of the church to discuss her plans and alleviate any of their concerns.

“Church members were parking on this property, which is private property for years. They can’t park here anymore. The church felt strongly due to their parking concerns that they were going to move forward against my plans,” she said.

The parking issue, according to Drake is a moot point due to the fact that church patrons did not have permission to park on the property previously. Patten plans to close one of the two automobile access curb cuts to the property. The plan will prevent people from parking on the property, but may allow the city to create more on-street parking.

Also on hold are plans to create an enclosed garden area where plantings, a 4×8 chicken coop for 3 chickens, and urban gardening displays and demonstrations will be housed.

“Mr. Paolino is concerned about having to look at chickens when his building is across the street and his office is on the other side. It doesn’t face my property or my one coop,” she said.

Andy Teitz, attorney for Patten, of Ursillo, Teitz and Richt , Providence was confident in Patten’s application before the zoning board.
“There was a collective objection before and there is a collective objection now, but it isn’t different. It is the same people – abutters, with the same objections they brought forth before,” Teitz said.

Mancini objected on behalf of his clients based on the current zoning and use ordinance.

“The present zoning in the area allows for residential and professional use. It is in a historic overlay district. The use requested is not allowed in the district,“ he said.

The restraining order intended to prevent Patten from peddling her wares is due to be heard on May 7, prior to the May 13 zoning hearing.

“Drake has a valid peddling license, issued by the city. I don’t believe that there is any problem with it,” said Teitz. “I think that she successfully presented her case before zoning the first time to show that the variance was valid.”

Teitz explained that were hardship issues with the property, as the former gas station property had remained vacant for the last decade.

“The property can’t be used for the original use and it can’t be used for anything else allowed within the zone. It’s not going to be harming the community. It is a tiny retail use that is urban in nature. She has valid foundation for the variance,” said Teitz.

Mancini did not agree that all beneficial use of the property was absent.

“The city allows for parking. Parking is an allowable use for that property, so not all beneficial use is gone. It doesn’t allow for retail use and for chickens” said Mancini. “We’re asking that the laws in place be followed and implemented. It’s about whether or not this use complies with the comprehensive plan of the city or the zoning ordinance. Once the variance is granted, if the business fails, the retail use remains in perpetuity. Mr. Paolino does not want to look out his windows and see chickens,”said Mancini.

“I think if we could stick with the law, I would be happy,” said Patten.”The zoning board ruled on the law. It was a technicality that overturned the decision. This is not just hurting me,” said Patten. “It is harming vendors, suppliers, contractors,” Patten said.

Community lent support to retailer.

Patten has support from the local community, including the South South Side Community Land Trust.

“We have supported Drake since she first brought up the idea of having an urban growing and retail store,” said Susan Sakash, Development Director.

“It’s beneficial to the community to have onsite agricultural expertise to assist grower’s in the city. There’s been a swell of interest in the last five years concerning urban gardening. There is always a benefit to providing resources in a local and walkable location. We have a hub right around the corner from Cluck on Grove Street and we look forward to partnering with Drake to provide the community with the resources they need to have successful urban gardens.

An online fundraising effort was initiated in order to assist Patten with her legal fees, as well as a community rally at the Broadway location.

Drake Patten (ctr-standing), owner of Cluck and several supporters enjoy the sunshine on Friday while peddling urban gardening and feed wares.

Providence Journal: R.I. Supreme Court Reverses Tax-Case Ruling

Overturns Superior Court decision in favoring city in dispute with Narragansett Electric.

PROVIDENCE-   The Rhode Island Supreme Court has reversed a Superior Court judge’s ruling that sided with the City of Cranston in a dispute over about $146,000 in property taxes paid by the former Narragansett Electric, now National Grid. Read more