Man behind blocked Mendon Road housing: I’ll sue

Man behind blocked Mendon Road housing: I’ll sue

The owner of this cleared property at the intersection of Mendon Road and Albion Road says he’ll sue the town for preventing him from using a previously approved plan to build new affordable housing here. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

CUMBERLAND – The would-be developer of a housing complex on the corner of Mendon Road and Albion Road, Fred Pesaturo, is threatening to sue the town for blocking him from moving forward with his previously approved affordable housing project.

Attorney Nicholas Goodier, in a letter to the town on Tuesday, said his client intends to file a Superior Court action on behalf of his Albion Landing project based on the fact that the town won’t issue a building permit, among other grounds. He is seeking $500,000 in damages incurred “as a result of the town’s reprehensive, retaliatory conduct.”

Goodier told The Breeze he believes Town Solicitor Kelley Morris claiming that the window for this project has expired is a response to local officials previously losing a lengthy legal battle over the project, a matter that ended with a 2014 Superior Court judgment in favor of his client.

An Oct. 25 letter from Planning and Community Development Director Jonathan Stevens to Pesaturo states that the developer’s comprehensive plan permit from 2014, approved by the State Housing Appeals Board upon appeal of the Cumberland Planning Board’s denial, expired because construction wasn’t started within a year and completed within five years of final plan approval.

“The department stands ready to work with you on plans to develop your property and sees merit in a comprehensive plan application which would contribute much-needed affordable housing stock,” Stevens wrote.

Goodier said in his letter that the project was approved during the time the state’s tolling statute was in effect, meaning any period pertaining to the expiration of a land development proposal was pushed back to June 30, 2017. That means this project won’t expire until June of 2022, he said.

The attorney told The Breeze that Pesaturo got started on various aspects of his project, but experienced delays due to market conditions and other issues. He received his approval in 2016 to start preparing the parcel to be developed, he said.

Morris said Tuesday that she hadn’t heard the developer’s position on the tolling statute until a call from The Breeze. “The statute I am familiar with is related to general development review. I just double-checked and do not find any provision for tolling in the statutes relating to comprehensive permits,” she said. “If the developer can provide the relevant law he is relying on to us, we would be happy to review it. Our goal is simply to get it right.”

The town is always open to continuing the conversation, she said, and officials have offered further discussion.

“At this time, we haven’t found any legal support to ‘resurrect’ this expired approval,” she said by email.

Goodier noted a similar situation on a previously approved site for a bank within sight of Pesaturo’s parcel, where development still hasn’t occurred. This busy area near the highway is being targeted for investment, he said, and this project at 1962 Mendon Road is one that would contribute to local economic development.

The project has a long history, said Goodier, but all the developer wants now is to get his 16 workforce housing units, planned for two buildings, built.

The project originally proposed a mix of commercial on the first floor and residential above, but the commercial aspect was later removed due to neighbors’ complaints, said Goodier. With straight residential again, there’s a need to increase density to make up for the lost revenue from having no commercial rent, he said.

This is workforce housing, Goodier said, meaning it’s for people in jobs such as firefighters, nurses and teachers.

According to Stevens, the project met the state’s affordable housing standards, meaning it was entitled to a density bonus for more units. But as the property is currently zoned, he said, it’s legal for only a trio of single-family homes.

Pesaturo ultimately prevailed in his appeal years ago, said Stevens, but the town still doesn’t have a complete set of final plans and the plan from years ago is expired. This may not be a bad spot for affordable housing, he said, on the bus line and at an exposed intersection.

Asked if the town would be open to a new proposal for an affordable housing complex here, Stevens said he’s not sure.

“It’s up to the property owner to make an approach,” he said.

Comments

For the past several months I have seen the town building officials and water departments supervising the final approved installation of required water and sewer systems at the corner of Mendon and Albion roads. Now Mr Pesaturo is being denied the right to proceed with his project? Am I missing something? If he had been advised of the problem months ago he could have taken care of it. Taxpayers - what’s in your wallets?

I am a long time neighbor of this project. I'm not sure where they get their information from but there is no RIPTA bus line that passes this intersection in Cumberland. I can't even find anything in Cumberland on the RIPTA online schedule, but I thought there was some service to the southern part of town?
Nevertheless, I cannot imagine 16 apartments in that small block!

I'm wondering if the town solicitor, Kelly Morris Salvatore has a conflict of interest considering her husband operates a business in the shopping plaza across the street?

And what about that bank plaza siting idle? How long did they take to get going? At least down the street,they started to clear the land and they must have obtained permits to bring town water onto the land.

They had to have complied otherwise the water would never had been authorized.

Another stupid lawsuit

There has been a proposed route along that portion of mendon road released on their “TransitForward“ master plan but you are correct in your assessment that there is currently no bus service along there. Service begins at the intersection of mendon and George Washington hwy and services the southern end of mendon.