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Solicitor: City can't take back Armory

May 12, 2011

PAWTUCKET — According to the City Solicitor’s review of the property disposition agreement for the Pawtucket Armory building, it appears that the city does not have a basis for taking back ownership of the historic building.
The City Council had instructed City Solicitor Frank Milos to review both the property agreement and the quitclaim deed to see if there was some way the city could gain control of the landmark. Sold by the city to the Pawtucket Armory Corporation for one dollar back in 2002, the property is currently in receivership. Although city officials had faulted some of the language in the 2002 agreement as being confusing and vague, it did provide the city with a right of reversion, but only if construction and improvements deadlines were not met by certain dates.
However, Milos told the council that the Planning Department had determined that the Pawtucket Armory Association had commenced improvements by Jan. 1, 2004, as required by the agreement. In addition, the Planning Department also determined from a review of the Pawtucket Armory Association’s business plan that the Association had “substantially completed” planned improvements prior to the agreement’s deadline of Dec. 31, 2006. In fact, Milos pointed out, the Association not only met the 50 percent completion requirement but had met 100 percent of the capital improvement schedule identified in its business plan by the deadline.
Based on this information, Milos said it was his opinion that the city does not have a basis for exercising the right of reversion contained in the agreement.
Milos did also say that the quitclaim deed conveying the property states that the transfer is subject to restrictions identified in the agreement. Since one section of the agreement states that “the property shall be used for the development of a performing arts center,” Milos said it seems clear that the city could take the position that any future use of the Armory property be for a performing arts center or similar use.
City Councilor Albert Vitali, who had raised concerns about the future of the Armory and had led the charge to explore the city’s options for taking back control of it, told the council Wednesday night that he and other city officials remain involved in the Armory’s future under the receivership scenario. “We’re still trying to make sure that the use of the property remains the same as in the original deed. This is not over by any stretch of the imagination,” Vitali stated.
On a related note, Vitali, who had been highly critical of the language in the property disposition agreement and had demanded to know the identity of the lawyer who drew it up, said he had gotten his answer. The agreement, forged back in 2002, had been drafted by the city’s former director of Planning and Redevelopment and been approved by the City Solicitor, Vitali told the council.
Apparently, said Vitali, the former Planning Director, (Michael Cassidy, who has since retired) had used a template to draft the purchase and sale and property disposition agreement and had just plugged in figures pertaining to the Armory building. The agreement had then been given to the Law Department to review. “Obviously, the way it was written was ineffective to say the least,” said Vitali. “It left the city with no alternatives.”
Vitali said that, going forward, he wanted to make sure that the City Solicitor is the only person who drafts such documents as purchase and sales agreements and property disposition agreements, and requested that a letter be sent from the council to the Grebien Administration to that effect.
Jack Gannon, director of administration for Mayor Donald Grebien, told the council that all municipal departments had already been notified that any documents of a legal nature must go through the city’s Legal Department.
In other matters, the Council on Wednesday approved a petition allowing the McDonald’s restaurant located at 285 Armistice Blvd. to keep its drive-though operation open 24 hours. A previous stipulation had required the drive-through be closed between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.
However, a decision on a similar request for a 24-hour drive-through at another McDonald’s location at 255 Mineral Spring Avenue was tabled for approximately one month in order for the owner and his attorney to meet with neighbors who are concerned about the plan.
Both McDonald’s restaurants are owned by Lou Provenzano. His attorney requested the decision be delayed and said he was in the process of scheduling a neighborhood meeting.
Also on Wednesday, the City Council approved a petition from Patriots Events, LLC to conduct a three-day carnival in the municipal parking lot across from City Hall. Called the Pawtucket Cherry Tree Carnival, the event will run in conjunction with the May 21 Cherry Blossom Festival and will operate on Friday, May 20, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, May 21, from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, May 22, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The carnival will feature ride, games, food, and a beer and wine tent.


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