Redevelopment Firm Files $1-Million Suit Against Twp.

For Union County HAWK

SCOTCH PLAINS — One of the former downtown redevelopers intends to file a lawsuit against the township and redevelopment officials for ending its conditional redevelopment agreement in June.

PS&S LLC, a Warren-based engineering firm, issued its intent to file a suit on September 3, asking for at least $1 million for “the cost of time, materials, and manpower provided by PS&S for the benefit of the Township.”

On June 7, the township council voted to sever its relationship with PS&S and its partner, Advance Realty Investors, which had been selected on a provisional basis two years earlier to redevelop the public properties in the central business district and were given exclusivity in negotiating the terms of a redevelopment plan with the township. Mayor Joshua Losardo said in June that both sides had “worked very hard to close the gap between the town’s development requests and vision and the developers’,” but that ultimately, it became apparent to council members that the redevelopers had “a different vision than we do.”

Cutting the exclusive ties with Advance/PS&S will allow the township to contact other developers with a detailed redevelopment plan for the downtown public properties that is expected to be introduced at the council’s meeting next Tuesday.

The lawsuit — which names Mayor Losardo, the members of the township council, redevelopment coordinator Thomas Strowe and township planner Michael Mistretta — says the township “unlawfully used the concept plans, drawings, analysis, and other documents and information developed and prepared by PS&S to serve as the basis for a new redevelopment plan.”

The suit further claims that, “rather than retain its own professionals and expend its own funds to create a redevelopment plan, the Township enticed PS&S to expend extraordinary time, materials, and manpower to develop concept plans and development and zoning standards. Furthermore, the Township coerced PS&S to deposit money in an escrow account to pay the Township’s professionals to review the work prepared by PS&S. The Township used PS&S to educate it regarding the redevelopment process and structure of a viable redevelopment plan. In fact, the Township has admitted PS&S provided them with a valuable ‘learning experience’.”

The township government, the lawsuit also stated, “never had any intention of entering into a binding agreement with PS&S and its development partner.” Instead, the township “made false representations and promises to PS&S and its development partner so that PS&S would continue to perform for the Township’s benefit at no cost to the Township. Once the Township received the benefit of the work performed by PS&S, the Township unilaterally terminated the Agreement,” which it then used as the basis for the new redevelopment plan.

In a statement to the Union County HAWK, Township Attorney David Minchello said that, “the Township will vigorously defend itself against this meritless lawsuit.” It is not known if Advance Realty Partners is preparing a similar lawsuit.

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