Redevelopment Authority Under Pressure to Fill Attleboro Industrial Park's Vacant Lots
Attleboro Redevelopment Authority took shots from officials on the empty Industrial park on Commerce Way.
The Attleboro Redevelopment Authority has its hands full with filling an empty industrial park, restoration projects and dealing with a lawsuit.
ARA Chairman and former Attleboro Mayor Judith Robbins was under fire by City Assessor Stan Nacewicz during the ARA's Thursday night meeting. Nacewicz said he foreshadowed a gloomy outlook and dire forecast regarding the fate of various parcels in the city's 189-acre industrial park on Commerce Way.
Nacewicz said “time is slipping by” to bring businesses to the park, which is still missing power lines and continues to be in severe debt. Ron Dubuc, assistant superintendent of operations for the city of Attleboro, reported that “electrical lines are “going in slowly but surely."
“Some of those parcels were put on the market seven years ago and that is the restriction placed on the property tax exemption on land owned by non-profit agencies,” Nacewicz said. “So some of these parcels could go back on the city tax rolls as early as the end of this year and others in years to come."
“The ARA is supposed to market and develop and property and not to land bank,” Nacewicz continued. “The only way to avoid this is by actively selling the lots.”
Rep. Ross, who was on city council during the approval process of Commerce Way, said the council was lied to be people involved with the plan.
"Someone lied to use all those years," Ross said during a recent interview. "We wasted time for nine years. What do we get out of it? One company, MAR Seafood."
Ross, like Nacewicz, said the problem was "no one had a marketing plan."
Naceswicz suggested that some of the property be used for cell phone towers or to lease billboards because “it might produce a revenue stream.”
Robbins defended the ARA saying "the ARA continues to attempt sell the land parcels at the Industrial Business Park. Some have even inquired about purchasing the entire park."
After a meeting with the Bristol County Savings Bank officials, it was determined that after receiving a check for $50,133.50 toward an escrow account from Mar Seafood, that money can be used toward paying interest on the loan.
She also said there might be “zoning limitations” on the land they own and the ways it could be developed and that the ARA would look into any restrictions. She added that leasing billboards and allowing construction of cell phone towers might not be in accordance with the original mission of the industrial park.
During the meeting Robbins also provided residents with an update on a Federal Transit Administration meeting held this week with Mayor Kevin Dumas, Rep. George Ross and several legislators and state and federal transportation officials.
“We need the funding for the Intermodal Transit Center (ITC) project so we can move or relocate the DPW building,” she said in what has been a oft-repeated refrain. “They have said that the project is not transit-oriented, but I think we made a good case that it is economically oriented and environmentally-oriented and has aims and goals related to the ITC."
If the ARA secures FTA funding, then it could be ready for the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Authority (GATRA) to select a design and engineering firm in a month. “They will be preparing the road across to Olive Street for the bus way, straighten out some curves and make other changes on Wall Street," Robbins said.
Progress on the Ten-Mile River Bank and Restoration project is about on schedule, Robbins reported. “I recently talked to Michelle West (of the Horsely Witten Group) and she told me the project is ready for a review of the design for the 75 percent design completion phase." The ARA plans to have another public meeting on the topic sometime next month.
In other matters, there may have been progress made in one lawsuit against the ARA.
Robbins said the ARA has had no response from the state about former ARA Chairman Michael Milanoski’s claims of having open-meeting violations. Milanoski and former ARA Chief Financial Officer Meg Ross, filed a civil service lawsuit after both were fired from the board 18 months ago.
“But we are ready to go to court if the lawsuit proceeds," she said. "It is not for lack of money that we would file an appeal if there were a ruling against us. Our lawyers feel that if the Civil Service Commission proceeds with the lawsuit that the Supreme Court would probably reverse the decision.”
The next ARA meeting will be on Feb. 3 at 3 p.m. in the Attleboro Public Library's Balfour Room.