Doom Looms for Housing Project

The Herald News
By:  Michael Clancy, Staff
August 29, 2001

PATERSON - A housing development proposed for a spot adjacent to the historic Great Falls has been the source of much consternation for the mayor, city council members and the developer.

Now, it seems, the Historic Horizons townhouse complex may very well cost the city $550,000 to just go away.

In 1996, the Regan Development Corp. was chosen to develop the housing project proposed for the former Allied Textile Printing site in the Great Falls Historic District.

However, the 52-unit, two-family housing development envisioned by the builder has languished because to a lawsuit by preservationists and because of local, state and federal red tape surrounding the deal.

Now, the project's dissolution looms.

On Aug. 13, Paterson Corporation Counsel Yolanda Adrianzen drafted a resolution authorizing payment of $550,000 to cover Regan's costs while the developer tried to get the proposal approved. The resolution will be considered by the City Council at a future date.

Mayor Martin G. Barnes brokered the settlement with Regan, who spent more than $1.5 million putting the deal together, according to city spokesman Bob Grant.

The council tabled the resolution and asked the developer to provide an itemized account its expenses so that it can study how the money was spent.

"Do you see one and a half million dollars worth of anything and six year's worth of work?" asked Councilman Thomas Rooney. "All you see is weeds and litter and whatever is left of a historical site."

Larry Regan, president of Regan Developers, declined to comment. Corporation Counsel Yolanda Adrianzen did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

The city could get out of its contract without spending a dime, said one preservationist who spearheaded the effort and lawsuit to stop the Historic Horizons project.

"I think that the developer is trying to get out of this deal with some money before a judgement comes out against them in court and the developer just has to dump it," said David Soo of the Paterson Friends of the Great Falls.

Because a judge remanded the Planning Board's decision back to the board, the contract could be broken without penalty, said Soo.

According to the contract, "In event the planning board does not approve the redeveloper's application for final site plan approval for Phase I in substantially the same form as submitted, City may terminate this agreement and return the deposit to the developer."

Such a position, said Soo, gives the city room to at least try to break the contract.

"In my opinion, if the administration is saying that there is no way to get out of this contract, then they haven't read it or they are lying," he said.

Grant said there is absolutely no way out of the contract and that the Mayor's deal is saving the city money.

"We told the guy to go ahead and authorized his expenditures," he said. "Now the questions is 'Will the city be able to extricate itself without a huge loss?' But it's just money down the drain anyway."

Rooney said the council would scrutinize the expenditures before taking action. Earlier this week, the developer forwarded to the council a packet almost two inches thick documenting expenses.

The council will also look again at the contract, he said.

"A lot of times, lawyers can be wrong, grievously wrong," he said. "On the other hand, we have to put great weight on the decisions we get from our legal department."