Developer Coccoli sues council over Hope Mill project

Developer Coccoli sues council over Hope Mill project

SCITUATE - Developer Vincent Coccoli Sr. has sued the town of Scituate for $21 million, alleging that town officials, including Town Council members and the building official, have breached agreements and confidentiality related to his purchase and development of The Hope Mill property, located in the southern part of town.

In an 11-page complaint, Coccoli alleges that town officials "never intended to address property tax abatement plans, planning/zoning issues, insurance or specific sewer issues but rather sought to advance their own private interests by deflecting or delaying decisions as anti-growth members of the Town Council."

He continues that their actions have caused him "considerable and irreparable financial harm."

In the lawsuit, which was filed on Aug. 13, he asks for:

• $211,000 for "promissory estoppel and oral breach of contract"

• $1 million for breach of confidentiality and consequent damages

• $5 million for contractual interference for expected loss of profits and loss of state tax credits

• $141,000 for compensatory damages

• $15 million for punitive damages, "as all the acts described above were malicious, fraudulent, and oppressive, justifying an award of punitive damages so that defendants and each of them will not engage in such conduct in the future and make an example of them."

In total, that amounts to $21,352,000.

"We're taking it very seriously," Town Solicitor David D'Agostino told The Valley Breeze & Observer Monday afternoon.

The town responded to the complaint on Monday by denying the allegations and calling for a dismissal, as outlined in a 6-page court document.

"He's made a number of claims. I do not think that many of his claims have a basis in fact," D'Agostino continued. "He sued the town. He bears the burden to prove what he says in his complaint is true."

"I stand by the complaint as it's written," Coccoli, who is representing himself, told The Observer Tuesday morning. "Of course the town is going to deny it. I think that there's a zero percent chance of having it dismissed."

"I shouldn't be suing," he continued. "I should be constructing the thing."

The 38-acre property is in holding by a state receivership and under the control Providence attorney Peter Furness, the court-appointed receiver.

Most of the property is in Scituate, but 7.5 acres are in Coventry.

Hope Mill was last in the news in April when the Scituate Town Council discussed the option of purchasing the historic property, but tabled its plan.

In 2007, a development group led by Coccoli bought the mill, planning to turn it into apartment units.

Coccoli amended his original lawsuit on Monday to include Theodore Richard III, who is the president of Hope Associates and a former Scituate Town Council president, as a defendant, he said.

In the lawsuit, Coccoli claims that the defendants are guilty of "promissory estoppel" and breach of oral agreement, following a "Memorandum of Understanding" between himself and the town, which he writes was created on or about July 3, 2007.

Per that memo, he claims, he agreed to design, get approval for, and build a new sewer line from the Hope Mill property to connect to the West Warwick Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, he said.

The town, in its 6-page answer, writes that if Coccoli is referring to the July 2, 2007 Memorandum of Understanding, the document "speaks for itself" and they "deny those allegations" in Coccoli's complaint.

Coccoli says in his complaint that he was asked by the Town Council president via a letter dated Dec. 6, 2011 to "perform additional due diligence" at the property.

Again, the defendants say that the president's letter speaks for itself and they deny the allegations, according to the court documents.

In 2012, Coccoli claims that the defendants breached the contract and oral promises by altering their agreement to add "town to hold title to infrastructure," which, he claims, made all sewer expenditures a loss, according to court documents. He estimates the cost at $5 million.

He goes on to say in the complaint that the defendants breached oral agreements and promises made to him "where they agreed to establish a repayment plan for construction costs of inter-municipal sewer." He estimates that damage at $211,000.

In addition to that, Coccoli states in his complaint that the defendants released confidential proprietary information, including appraisals, architectural, engineering, and survey work without permission, posting some information to the town's website.

He claims that they used this information "to market the property to other buyers."

He demands, in his complaint, payment for the loss of information in the sum of $1 million.

Later in the complaint, Coccoli alleges that town officials "chilled" his investors and caused his purchase sales agreement to terminate on Feb. 11, 2015.

He said that he had secured funding for the project through investors and provided a $10,000 deposit to the receiver in June 2014. From June 2014 through January 2015, he, investors, and the Town Council met in closed session meetings to discuss property tax assessments and sewer construction costs, he states in the complaint.

Those meetings, he says, "were frustrating and disappointing to say the least. The Town Council inferred that all 'prior approvals' or signed agreements were null and void. Any attempt to present a fair proposal was met with descent, opposition, rudeness, and delays."

His investor, he said, withdrew $18 million in funds.

He also lost $5 million in funds through the State Historic Structure Tax Credits, he claims in the complaint, and demands payment for the loss in amount of $5 million.

Also in the complaint, Coccoli asks for $141,000 for a time in November 2011 when he says he made an agreement to clean up an environmental emergency on site.

In his conclusion, he writes: "Due to the town's delay tactics, the mill project is at a standstill, while the buildings continue to deteriorate. The economic (jobs) and social benefits of rehabbing this building for the town of Scituate and the state of Rhode Island are considerable, it truly deserves to be saved."

Comments

Seems to me, in many ways, there is a similarity here?

Shortly before midnight, Hamlet meets Horatio on the battlements of the castle. They wait together in the darkness. From below they hear the sound of the men in the castle laughing and dancing riotously; the King draining his "draughts of Rhenish down" (10). Hamlet explains to Horatio his dislike of such behaviour. To Hamlet, drinking to excess has ruined the whole nation, which is known abroad as a land full of drunken swine.

Horatio spots the Ghost of Hamlet's father approaching. Hamlet calls out to the Ghost and it beckons Hamlet to leave with it. Despite the pleadings of Horatio and Marcellus, who are afraid that the apparition might be an evil entity in disguise, Hamlet agrees to follow the Ghost and the two figures disappear into the dark.

Marcellus, shaken by the many recent disturbing events and no doubt angered (as is Hamlet) by Claudius's mismanagement of the body politic, astutely notes that Denmark is festering with moral and political corruption. Horatio replies "Heaven will direct it" (91), meaning heaven will guide the state of Denmark to health and stability.

Me thinks Mr. Coccoli is going to need a lot more then 'Heaven's' help here...especially if he is to believed in any and all of this?