By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor
Seeing new apartments, restaurants, offices and shops on 9-acres of East Atlantic Avenue looked like it was going to become a reality after more than a decade of planning for Atlantic Crossing.
But commissioners postponed taking a vote on a settlement agreement with the developers Edwards Cos. last month that would end all litigation between the city and the developers and get the project moving forward.
The deal would incorporate a two-way road back into the project and the legal battle would end.
But when it came time to discuss a way to end the federal and state lawsuits the developers have filed against the city alleging improper delays, commissioners said they had outstanding questions on what the city would receive under the proposed settlement terms.
Outside counsel Jamie Cole said the conditions from the 2013 site plan approval and 2011 developer’s agreement remained in place. But so many discussions have taken place regarding the project since then that commissioners wanted clarification on what those conditions included or didn’t include.
For certain, the city would be getting a two-way road ingress, egress drive from the project’s central core at NE 7th Ave. to US-1 that residents and commissioners asked for.
Commissioners had no qualms over that part of the deal even though the proposed road is not the recommended option by city staff and outside traffic experts.
“The road improvements are adequate,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said.
Of concern to residents and commissioners was a proposed donation to spiff up Veterans Park and a proffer by the developers to implement traffic calming measures in the Marina Historic District and Palm Trail neighborhood, which are both posed to be affected by traffic from the project.
“Like many, I came in here very excited,” Commissioner Shelly Petrolia said over the proposed settlement agreement. “I am starting to feel uncomfortable.”
Mayor Glickstein placed some of the blame of the commission’s unclarity on the outside counsel, which has been mediating the settlement.
“I don’t know how you bring us to the mountaintop and leave out what is clearly on the public’s mind,” he said to Cole. “How are we supposed to approve something if we don’t know what we are getting?”
Cole said there have been many discussions and promises that were never formally approved, including a roughly $500,000 donation to Veterans Park.
Commissioner Mitch Katz said he was under the impression that everything that had been promised including the park donation and traffic calming measures were still in place. The only change was the addition of the road and some minor modifications to make sure the road can be constructed.
Commissioners did have a chance at codifying some of these promises in an amended developer’s agreement in 2014. But that agreement was never formally voted on.
Now, commissioners want to meet with counsel to figure out what the city will get if the settlement agreement is approved.
“I am hoping that we can work through this as soon as possible,” Katz said. “I will meet at 10 in the morning or 10 at night to get this done. Let’s just get us to the finish fine.”
Until then, the litigation will continue. So far, the city has spent nearly $400,000 on outside counsel and nearly $10,000 on outside traffic experts, according to a public records request.
“It is disappointing to have yet another delay after working in good faith, devoting substantial time and money, to reach a proposed settlement by yet again providing the city what it requested,” said Edwards Cos. COO Dean Kissos. “While we were hopeful to reach an amicable resolution we will continue to pursue our rights in court to obtain the final approvals we previously earned and to make Atlantic Crossing a reality.”
It is unclear when commissioners will discuss the proposed settlement again.
By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor