Source: https://www.nhregister.com, April 7, 2019
By: Mark Zaretsky
A major, mixed-use development project to put 10 buildings with 205 residential units on the former site of Atlantic Wire is up in the air again, with a new lawsuit the property owner has failed to do required environmental cleanup.
The developer of the Atlantic Wharf project, Metro Star Capital LLC, filed the lawsuit in February, claiming damages greater than $15,000 against property owner 1 Church Street LLC.
The 7.7-acre property is located along the Branford River, within walking distance to the center of town and the Shore Line East train station. The 10-building, mixed-use complex would feature 205 residential units that would be a mix of studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments, according to its zoning application.
The property has been under contract for sale since Feb. 26, 2013, and the town approved the development initially in February 2015 and again in January 2017.
The developer agreed to buy it for $6 million, according to the lawsuit, first reported by the Branford Seven news site.
The agreement “expressly obligates defendant to develop a remediation plan … subject to approval by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection” and “then complete the work … prior to the closing,” the lawsuit says.
The remediation plan, or RAP, was due by May 12, 2013, 75 days after the purchase agreement was executed. The lawsuit says 1 Church Street “provided an informal ‘Remedial Approach’ document’ on June 17, 2013 “that did not satisfy its RAP obligations.”
It alleges that “the closing has been held up because defendant is unwilling to expend the money necessary to properly remediate the property,” and that 1 Church Street “has failed to develop and fair and workable (remedial action plan) and has failed to conduct the required remediation.”
As a result “Metro Star is incurring present and future losses due to defendant’s wrongful and unfair delay,” the lawsuit says.
It says the delay “is jeopardizing Metro Star’s ability to complete the project given that construction is expected to take three years, and the zoning approvals are set to expire in April 2022.”
In addition, “defendant has engaged in unreasonable and imprudent demolition activities that have complicated the remediation issue and damaged the property that is to be conveyed,” the lawsuit states.
Among them, “defendant has caused additional harm by demolishing structures on the property without proper environmental management,” the suit says.
Metro Star Capital and its CEO Robert Smith Jr. are represented by David Slossberg and Jeffrey Nichols of Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff of Milford; 1 Church Street and owner Kevin O’Neill are represented by Gerald Giaimo of Halloran & Sage of New Haven.
“I look forward to disproving the allegations in court,” Giaimo said Thursday.
There are actually three parcels involved, including 5.19 acres at 1 Church St., 1.19 acres at 256 Meadow St. and 1.27 acres described as Meadow Street Rear.
DEEP advised 1 Church Street in April 2017 “the RAP must include a liner under the underground parking garage that is included in Metro Star’s project design” to contain contaminated soils benath the site of the old Atlantic Wire Mill, the suit says.
But 1 Church Street “proposed to install the liner either under the footings of the parking garage or in between the footing and the slab in order to make remediation cheaper for the defendent,” it says.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the plan in early 2018.
Atlantic Wire manufactured industrial wire for 102 years. The company declared bankruptcy in 2008 and was charged with federal crimes and state violations for polluting the Branford River.
After Atlantic Wire officials pleaded guilty to the criminal charges, the owners began an extensive cleanup of the site as part of a deal with the state. A former vice president of Atlantic Wire was sentenced in 2009 to a year of probation for violating clean water regulations by failing to report toxic discharges into the Branford River.
Atlantic Wire LLC paid the state $1.5 million to settle allegations it repeatedly dumped toxic waste water into the Branford River between 2005 and early 2008.